BACKGROUND: In 2009, the Taiwanese national health insurance system substantially expanded hospice coverage for terminal cancer patients to include patients with end-stage brain, dementia, heart, lung, liver, and kidney diseases. This study aimed to evaluate differences in do-not-resuscitate (DNR) status and hospice care utilization between terminal cancer patients and advanced non-cancer patients after the policy change.
METHODS: Data were obtained from the Death and Hospice Palliative Care Database of Taipei Veterans General Hospital in Taiwan. The differences between cancer and non-cancer patients who died in this hospital between 2010 and 2015 were analyzed in terms of patient characteristics, rates of DNR orders, hospice care utilization, number of living days after DNR order, duration of survival (DOS) after hospice care enrollment, and the rate of late referral to hospice care.
RESULTS: Data for 8459 patients who died of cancer and major non-cancer terminal diseases were included. DNR order rate, hospice care utilization rate, and DOS were significantly higher for cancer patients than for non-cancer patients (p < 0.001, p < 0.001, and p < 0.001, respectively). The number of living days after DNR order and the late referral rate were significantly higher for non-cancer decedents than for cancer decedents (p < 0.001 and p < 0.001, respectively). From 2010 to 2015, there were significantly increasing trends in the hospice utilization rate, number of living days after DNR order, and rate of late referral for the cancer group (p < 0.001, p = 0.001, and p < 0.001, respectively). For the non-cancer group, there were significantly increasing trends in the rate of DNR order, hospice utilization rate, and number of living days after DNR order (p < 0.001, p < 0.001, and p = 0.029, respectively).
CONCLUSIONS: Further guidelines should be developed to help clinicians to promptly refer terminal cancer and non-cancer patients to hospice care. Considering the lower hospice utilization rate and the growing need for hospice care among terminal non-cancer patients, policymakers should consider how to improve the relevant levels of professional care to enhance the accessibility and availability of hospice care in Taiwan.