Background: Emergency Medical Services (EMS) are often involved in end-of-life circumstances, yet little is known about how EMS interfaces with advance directives to forego unwanted resuscitation (Do Not Attempt Resuscitation (DNAR)). We evaluated the frequency of these directives involved in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) and how they impact care.
Methods: We conducted a cohort investigation of adult, EMS-attended OHCA from January 1 to December 31, 2018 in King County, WA. DNAR status was ascertained from dispatch, EMS, and hospital records. Resuscitation was classified according to DNAR status: not initiated, initiated but ceased due to the DNAR, or full efforts.
Results: Of 3152 EMS-attended OHCA, 314 (9.9%) had a DNAR directive. DNAR was present more often among those for whom EMS did not attempt resuscitation compared to when EMS provided some resuscitation (13.2% [212/1611] vs 6.6% [101/1541], (p < 0.05).
Of those receiving resuscitation with a DNAR directive (n = 101), the DNAR was presented on average 6 min following EMS arrival. A total of 82% (n = 83) had EMS efforts ceased as a consequence of the DNAR while 18% (n = 18) received full efforts. Full-efforts compared to ceased-efforts were more likely to have a witnessed arrest (67% vs 36%), present with shockable rhythm (22% vs 6%), achieve spontaneous circulation by time of DNAR presentation (50% vs 4%), and have family contradict the DNAR (33% vs 0%) (p < 0.05 for each comparison).
Conclusions: Approximately 10% of EMS-attended OHCA involved DNAR. EMS typically fulfilled this end-of-life preference, though wishes were challenged by delayed directive presentation or contradictory family wishes.
Background: Evaluating the need for palliative care and predicting its mortality play important roles in the emergency department.
Aim: We developed a screening model for predicting 1-year mortality.
Design: A retrospective cohort study was conducted to identify risk factors associated with 1-year mortality. Our risk scores based on these significant risk factors were then developed. Its predictive validity performance was evaluated using area under receiving operating characteristic analysis and leave-one-out cross-validation.
Setting and participants: Patients aged 15 years or older were enrolled from June 2015 to May 2016 in the emergency department.
Results: We identified five independent risk factors, each of which was assigned a number of points proportional to its estimated regression coefficient: age (0.05 points per year), qSOFA >= 2 (1), Cancer (4), Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group Performance Status score >= 2 (2), and Do-Not-Resuscitate status (3). The sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, and negative predictive value of our screening tool given the cutoff larger than 3 points were 0.99 (0.98–0.99), 0.31 (0.29–0.32), 0.26 (0.24–0.27), and 0.99 (0.98–1.00), respectively. Those with screening scores larger than 9 points corresponding to 64.0% (60.0–67.9%) of 1-year mortality were prioritized for consultation and communication. The area under the receiving operating characteristic curves for the point system was 0.84 (0.83–0.85) for the cross-validation model.
Conclusions: A-qCPR risk scores provide a good screening tool for assessing patient prognosis. Routine screening for end-of-life using this tool plays an important role in early and efficient physician-patient communications regarding hospice and palliative needs in the emergency department.
Background: Emergency department (ED) visits are common for older patients with chronic, life-limiting illnesses and may offer a valuable opportunity for clinicians to initiate proactive goals of care conversations (GoCC) to ensure end-of-life care that aligns with the patients' values, goals, and preferences.
Objectives: The purpose of this study is to assess whether GoCC are occurring with patients in Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) EDs, to characterize these patients' goals of care and life-sustaining treatment (LST) decisions, and to examine the extent to which palliative or hospice consultations occur following the ED visit.
Design: We conducted a cross-sectional retrospective study using health record data.
Settings/Subjects: A total of 10,780 patients receiving care in VA, whose first GoCC occurred during an ED visit.
Results: Of the patients in the study, approximately half were at least 70 years of age, three-quarters were white, and half had multiple serious disease comorbidities. The percentage of patients who desired cardiopulmonary resuscitation was lower among the highest risk (i.e., of hospitalization and death) patients (64% vs. 51%). The percentage of patients wanting other LSTs (e.g., mechanical ventilation) was higher among the lowest risk patients; and the percentage of patients requesting limits to LSTs was highest among higher risk patients. Eighteen percent of patients had a palliative or hospice care consult within three months of their ED visit.
Conclusions: In this study, we verified that GoCC are being initiated in the ED with Veterans at differing stages in their illness trajectory and that higher proportions of higher risk patients preferred to limit LSTs.
CONTEXT: Health systems have aspired to integrate palliative care (PC) into the emergency department (ED) in order to improve care quality for over a decade, yet there are very few examples of implemented models in the literature. The COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase in the volume of seriously ill patients in EDs and a consequent rapid increase in PC integration in many EDs.
OBJECTIVE: To describe the new PC-ED delivery innovations that emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic.
METHODS: For this qualitative study of PC programs in EDs, semi-structured interviews were conducted with ED and PC clinicians between June 30, 2020 and August 18, 2020. Participants were asked about PC-ED integration before, during and after COVID. We conducted a two-phased rapid analysis (RA) using a RA template and consolidated matrix to identify innovations.
RESULTS: Using purposive and snowball sampling, we interviewed 31 participants, representing 52 hospitals. Several new innovations in care delivery were identified. These included elements of fully embedded PC, the use of PC extenders, technology both within the electronic medical record (EMR) and outside of it, and innovations in training emergency clinicians in primary palliative care skills to support care delivery. Most PC efforts focused on increasing goals of care conversations. Institutions that implemented these programs reported that they increased PC utilization in the ED, were well received by clinicians, and changed patient's care trajectories.
CONCLUSIONS: Several new innovations in PC-ED care delivery emerged during COVID. Many innovations leveraged different types of clinicians to deliver care, an increased physical presence of PC in the ED, and used technology to enhance care delivery. These innovations may serve as a framework for institutions as they plan for evolving needs in the ED during and after COVID. Additional research is needed to evaluate the impact of these programs and to understand their applicability beyond the pandemic.
BACKGROUND: Palliative care is an essential component of emergency medicine, as many patients with terminal illness will present to the emergency department (ED) for symptomatic management at the end of life (EOL).
OBJECTIVE: This narrative review evaluates palliative care in the ED, with a focus on the literature behind management of EOL symptoms, especially dyspnea and cancer-related pain.
DISCUSSION: As the population ages, increasing numbers of patients present to the ED with severe EOL symptoms. An understanding of the role of palliative care in the ED is crucial to effectively communicating with these patients to determine their goals and provide medical care in line with their wishes. Beneficence, nonmaleficence, and patient autonomy are essential components of palliative care. Patients without medical decision-making capacity may have an advance directive, do not resuscitate or do not intubate order, or Portable Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment available to assist clinicians. Effective and empathetic communication with patients and families is vital to EOL care discussions. Two of the most common and distressing symptoms at the EOL are dyspnea and pain. The most effective treatment of EOL dyspnea is opioids, with literature showing little efficacy for other therapies. The most effective treatment for cancer-related pain is opioids, with expeditious pain control achievable with a rapid fentanyl titration. It is also important to address nausea, vomiting, and secretions, as these are common at the EOL.
CONCLUSIONS: Emergency clinicians play a vital role in EOL patient care. Clear, empathetic communication and treatment of EOL symptoms are essential.
OBJECTIVES: Terminally ill patients in need of palliative care present to emergency departments. This study aims to identify the usage level of the emergency departments by patients in need of palliative care, along with their experienced symptoms, preferences, needs, and the subsequent initiatives taken for symptom management.
METHODS: The study was designed as a cross-sectional study and conducted with a group of 208 patients. The Patient Information Form, the Form of the Criteria for Receiving Palliative Care, and the Karnofsky Performance Scale were used for data collection.
RESULTS: This report found that cancer patients were the most frequent users of emergency facilities within palliative care patient groups and more than half of those hospitalized patients were subsequently admitted to intensive care units. Patients with poorer functional conditions and in need of further palliative care preferred home care rather than receiving Advanced Cardiac Life Support.
CONCLUSION: This study displays evidence that palliative care patients with a poorer functional condition in need of further palliative care should be able to spend the last days of their lives at home with their families rather than in the exhausting and crowded environment of the emergency departments. Furthermore, healthcare policymakers should actively support palliative care as well as taking the necessary actions to mitigate the burden placed on hospital resources.
BACKGROUND: Coronavirus-2 (COVID-19) is a global pandemic. As of August 21, mortality from COVID-19 has reached almost 200,000 people, with the United States leading the globe in levels of morbidity and mortality. Large volumes of high-acuity patients, particularly those of advanced age and with chronic comorbidities, have significantly increased the need for palliative care resources beyond usual capacity. More specifically, COVID-19 has changed the way we approach patient and family member interactions.
DISCUSSION: Concern for nosocomial spread of this infection has resulted in strict visitation restrictions that have left many patients to face this illness, make difficult decisions, and even die, alone in the hospital. To meet the needs of COVID patients, services such as Emergency Medicine and Palliative Care have responded rapidly by adopting novel ways of practicing medicine. We describe the use of telepalliative medicine (TM) implemented in an emergency department (ED) setting to allow family members the ability to interact with their loved ones during critical illness, and even during the end of life. Use of this technology has helped facilitate goals of care discussions, in addition to providing contact and closure for both patients and their loved ones.
CONCLUSION: We describe our rapid and ongoing implementation of TM consultation for our ED patients and discuss lessons learned and recommendations for others considering similar care models.
INTRODUCTION: Do not resuscitate (DNR) decision making is an integral component of emergency medicine practice. There is a paucity of data, protocols and guidelines regarding the perceptions and barriers that are involved in the interactions among healthcare professionals, patients and their caregivers regarding DNR decision making. The aim of this study is, therefore, to explore the perceptions and factors influencing DNR decision making in the emergency department and to evaluate the use of a context-based protocol for DNR decision making.
METHODS AND ANALYSIS: This will be a sequential mixed method study beginning with qualitative research involving in-depth interviews (IDIs) with patient family members and focus group discussion with healthcare professionals. The consensual qualitative approach will be used to perform a thematic analysis to the point of saturation. The expected outcome will be to identify key themes that suggest perceptions and factors involved in DNR decision making. After piloting, the derived protocol will then be used with a different group of individuals (150 healthcare professionals) who meet the eligibility criteria in a quantitative cross-sectional study with universal sampling. Data will be analysed using NVIVO in the qualitative phase and SPSS V.19 in the quantitative phase. The study findings will support the development of a standardised protocol for DNR decision making for healthcare professionals in the emergency department.
ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: The proposal was reviewed by the ethics review committee (ERC) of the institution (ERC # 2020-1551-7193). The project is an institution SEED grant recipient PF139/0719. The results will be disseminated among participants, patient communities and healthcare professionals in the institution through seminars, presentations, brochures and emails. The findings will be published in a highly accessed peer-reviewed medical journal and will be presented at international conferences.
Background: Portable Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) are increasingly utilized to assist patients approaching the end of life in documenting goals of care. We evaluated the association of POLST, resource utilization, and costs to 1 year among injured older adults requiring emergency services.
Methods: This was a retrospective cohort of injured older adults =65 years with continuous Medicare fee-for-service coverage transported by emergency medical services (EMS) in 2011 across 4 counties in Oregon. Data sources included EMS, Medicare claims, vital statistics, and state POLST, inpatient and trauma registries. Outcomes included hospital admission, receipt of aggressive medical interventions, costs, and hospice use. We matched patients on patient characteristics and comorbidities to control for bias.
Results: We included 2116 patients of which 484 (22.9%) had a POLST form prior to 911 contact. Of POLST patients, 136 (28.1%) had orders for full treatment, 194 (40.1%) for limited interventions, and 154 (31.8%) for comfort measures. There were no significant associations for care during the index event. However, in the year after the index event, patients with care limitations had higher adjusted hospice use (limited interventions OR 1.7 [95% CI: 1.2–2.6]; comfort OR, 2.0 [95% CI: 1.3–3.0]) and lower adjusted post-discharge costs (no POLST, $32,399 [95% CI: 30,041–34,756]; limited interventions, $18,729 [95% CI: 12,913–24,545]; and comfort $15,593 [95% CI: 12,091–19,095]). There were no significant associations for all other outcomes.
Conclusions: Care limitations specified in POLST forms among injured older adults transported by EMS are associated with increased use of hospice and decreased costs to 1 year.
Background: Emergency department (ED) initiated palliative consultation impacts downstream care utilization. Various admission consult triggers have been proposed without clear best practice or outcomes.
Objective: This 18-month single-center study evaluated the clinical, operational, and financial impact of simplified admission triggers for ED-initiated palliative consults as compared to downstream Floor and intensive care unit (ICU) palliative consults initiated per usual practice.
Methods: We distilled ED admission triggers into three criteria to ensure bedside actionability and sustainability: (1) end-stage illness, (2) functional limitation, and (3) clinician would not be surprised if the patient died this hospitalization. Eligible patients met all criteria, and received consultation within 24 hours of admission. We compared ED-initiated consults against Floor and ICU consults from March 1, 2018, to September 30, 2019, with matched cohort analysis to evaluate financial outcomes.
Results: While overall palliative consult volume remained intentionally steady, the proportion of ED-initiated consults significantly increased (7% vs. 19%, p < 0.001). ED consistently comprised 15–25% of all monthly palliative consults. Compared with Floor, ED had similar ED length of stay (LOS) and inpatient mortality. Among live discharges, ED were more likely to be referred to hospice than Floor (59% vs. 47%, p = 0.24) or ICU (59% vs. 34%, p = 0.02). In a matched cohort analysis, ED demonstrated median cost avoidance of $9,082 per patient versus Floor ($5,578 vs. $14,660, p < 0.001) and $15,138 per patient versus ICU ($5,578 vs. $20,716, p < 0.001). ED had significantly shorter median LOS before consult than Floor (0 vs. 3 days, p < 0.001) or ICU (0 vs. 3 days, p < 0.001), which did not differ between live discharges or inpatient deaths. Overall hospital LOS was disproportionately shorter for ED, with a net difference-in-differences of 1–3.5 days compared to Floor and ICU.
Conclusions: Simple ED admission triggers to expedite palliative engagement are associated with a 50–75% reduction in both hospital LOS and costs when compared against usual palliative consultation practice. ED initiation reduces both lead time before consultation and subsequent downstream hospitalization length.
BACKGROUND: Disparities in the utilization, expenditures, and quality of care by insurance types have been well documented. Such comparisons have yet to be investigated in end-of-life (EOL) settings in China, where public insurance covers over 95% of the Chinese population. This study examined the associations between health insurance and EOL care in the last six months of life: outpatient visits, emergency department (ED) visits, inpatient services, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, expenditures, and place of death among the cancer patients.
METHODS: A total of 398 patients diagnosed with cancer who survived more than 6 months after diagnosis and died from July 2015 to June 2017 in urban Yichang, China, were included. Descriptive analysis and multivariate regression models were used to investigate the bivariate and independent associations, respectively, between health insurance with EOL healthcare utilization, expenditures and place of death.
RESULTS: Urban Employee Basic Medical Insurance (UEBMI) beneficiaries visited EDs more frequently than Urban Resident-based Basic Medical Insurance (URBMI) and New Rural Cooperative Medical Scheme (NRCMS) beneficiaries (marginal effects [95% Confidence Interval]: 2.15 [1.81-2.48] and 1.92 [1.59-2.26], respectively). NRCMS and UEBMI beneficiaries had more hospitalizations than URBMI beneficiaries (1.01 [0.38-1.64] and 0.71 [0.20-1.22], respectively). Compared to URBMI beneficiaries, NRCMS beneficiaries and UEBMI beneficiaries had ¥15,722 and ¥43,241 higher expenditures. Similarly, UEBMI beneficiaries were most likely to die in hospitals, followed by NRCMS (UEBMI vs. NRCMS: 0.23 [0.11-0.36]) and URBMI (UEBMI vs. URBMI: 0.67 [0.57-0.78]) beneficiaries.
CONCLUSIONS: The disproportionately lower utilization of EOL care among NRCMS and URBMI beneficiaries, compared to UEBMI beneficiaries, raised concerns regarding quality of EOL care and financial burdens of NRCMS and URBMI beneficiaries. Purposive hospice care intervention might be warranted to address EOL care for these beneficiaries in China.
INTRODUCTION: Although the importance of palliative care (PC) integration in the Emergency Department (ED) has long been recognized, few formalized programs have been reported and none have evaluated the experience of ED clinicians with embedded PC. We evaluate the experience of ED clinicians with embedded PC in the ED during COVID.
METHODS: ED clinicians completed a survey about their perceptions of embedded PC in the ED. We summarized responses to closed-ended items using descriptive statistics and analyzed open-ended items using thematic analysis.
RESULTS: There were 134 ED clinicians surveyed. 101 replied (75% response rate). Of those that had interacted with PC, 100% indicated a benefit of having PC involved. These included freeing up ED clinicians for other tasks (89%), helping them feel more supported (84%), changing the patients care trajectory (67%), and contributing to clinician education (57%) and skills (49%). Among barriers related to engaging PC were difficulty locating them (8%) and lack of time to consult due to ED volume (5%). 98% of respondents felt that having PC in the ED was either "valuable" or "very valuable." Open-ended responses reflected a positive impact on clinician wellness and improvement in access to high quality goal concordant care. Clinicians expressed gratitude for having PC in the ED and noted the importance of having readily available and easily accessible PC in the ED.
CONCLUSION: ED clinicians' perception of embedded PC was overall positive, with an emphasis on the impact related to task management, enrichment of PC skills, providing support for the team, and improved care for ED patients.
CONTEXT: Due to the need for isolation of inpatients with suspected COVID-19, accuracy in identifying these cases in Emergency Department (ED) has great relevance, especially in Palliative Oncology Care Unit (PCU).
OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the efficiency of clinical criteria adopted to identify suspected cases of COVID-19 by the ED in PCU.
METHODS: All patients admitted to PCU between April and June 2020 from ED were included. The clinical criteria adopted to identify suspected COVID-19 cases were: being in contact with a suspected or confirmed case less than 14 days ago and / or presenting fever with no defined focus and / or respiratory symptoms not explained by oncological disease and / or suggestive image in radiological examination (if necessary). All suspected cases were submitted to deep nasal and throat swab for SARS COV-2 investigation by Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction Test, adopted as gold standard. Inpatients hospitalized by ED, without suspicion, and then diagnosed with COVID-19 within 10 days of hospitalization were considered as false-negative cases.
RESULTS: During the period, 327 patients were admitted from ED. Of these, 69 (21%) were considered suspects, of whom 34 (49%) tested positive for COVID-19. The sensitivity of the clinical criterion to identify suspected cases was 87%, specificity was 88%, positive predictive value was 49%, negative was 98% and accuracy was 88%.
CONCLUSION: The clinical criteria adopted to identify suspected cases of COVID-19 at ED proved to be efficient, with low risk of spreading in-hospital infection, avoiding unnecessary isolation of patients.
Although the emergency department (ED) may not be traditionally thought of as the ideal setting for the initiation of palliative care, it is the place where patients most frequently seek urgent care for recurrent issues such as pain crisis. Even if the patients' goals of care are nonaggressive, their caregivers may bring them to the ED because of their own distress at witnessing the patients' suffering. Emergency department providers, who are trained to focus on the stabilization of acute medical crises, may find themselves frustrated with repeat visits by patients with chronic problems. Therefore, it is important for ED providers to be comfortable discussing goals of care, to be adept at symptom management for chronic conditions, and to involve palliative care consultants in the ED course when appropriate. Nurse practitioners, with training rooted in the holistic tradition of nursing, may be uniquely suited to lead this shift in the practice paradigm. This article presents case vignettes of 4 commonly encountered ED patient types to examine how palliative care principles might be applied in the ED.
CONTEXT: Terminally ill patients (TIP) frequently visit the emergency department (ED), but the prevalence of these visits is unclear.
OBJECTIVE: To determine the prevalence of TIP visiting the ED.
METHODS: Systematic review of observational studies published between 1998 and 2018 reporting adults TIP who used the hospital ED, searching in PubMed, CINAHL, SciELO, LILACS, and Cochrane. Three evaluators selected and extracted data (kappa concordance 0.63). The quality of the studies was evaluated with the Newcastle-Ottawa scale and global estimates were made, calculating combined prevalence (95% confidence interval [CI]) and heterogeneity of the studies (I2).
RESULTS: We identified 2429 publications, ultimately including 31 studies in 14 countries; 79% were from high-income countries, 21% from medium-income countries and none from low-income countries. Most were from 2015. We found that 45% of cancer patients visited the ED in the last month of life (95% CI 37-54%) and 75% in the last 6 months of life (95% CI 62-83%); I2 100%. Overall, 17% of patients who visited the ED had a terminal illness (95% CI 12-23%); I2 98%. Few studies reported terminal non-oncologic illness, specific age groups or diseases, hospital admission rates, use of palliative care or non-resuscitation, or other criteria that could be used for grouping.
CONCLUSIONS: Patients with terminal cancer frequently use the ED at the end of life, although use varies among patients and few studies have examined low-income countries or patients with non-oncologic terminal illness. The global prevalence of TIP in the ED cannot be calculated from limited reports.
Background: Current policies recommend integrating home care and palliative care to enable patients to remain at home and avoid unnecessary hospital admission and emergency department (ED) visits. The Italian health care system had implemented integrated palliative home care (IHPC) services to guarantee a comprehensive, coordinated approach across different actors and to reduce potentially avoidable ED visits. This study aimed to analyze the trajectories of ED visit rates among patients receiving IHPC in the Italian healthcare system, as well as the association between socio-demographic, health supply, and clinical factors.
Methods: A pooled, cross-sectional, time series analysis was performed in a large Italian region in the period 2013–2017. Data were taken from two databases of the official Italian National Information System: Home Care Services and ED use. A clinical record is opened at the time a patient is enrolled in IHPC and closed after the last service is provided. Every such clinical record was considered as an IHPC event, and only ED visits that occurred during IHPC events were considered.
Results: The 20,611 patients enrolled in IHPC during the study period contributed 23,085 IHPC events; =1 ED visit occurred during 6046 of these events. Neoplasms accounted for 89% of IHPC events and for 91% of ED visits. Although there were different variations in ED visit rates during the study period, a slight decline was observed for all diseases, and this decline accelerated over time (b = - 0.18, p = 0.796, 95% confidence interval [CI] = - 1.59;1.22, b-squared = - 1.25, p < 0.001, 95% CI = -1.63;-0.86). There were no significant predictors among the socio-demographic factors (sex, age, presence of a non-family caregiver, cohabitant family members, distance from ED), health supply factors (proponent of IHPC) and clinical factors (prevalent disorder at IHPC entry, clinical symptoms).
Conclusion: Our results show that use of ED continues after enrollment in IHPC, but the trend of this use declines over time. As no significant predictive factors were identified, no specific interventions can be recommended on which the avoidable ED visits depend.
We propose that the palliative care team response will occur in two ways: first, communication and second, symptom management. Our experience with discussing goals of care with the family of a COVID-positive patient highlighted some expected and unexpected challenges. We describe these challenges along with recommendations for approaching these conversations. We also propose a framework for proactively mobilizing the palliative care workforce to aggressively address goals of care in all patients, with the aim of reducing the need for rationing of resources.
BACKGROUND: There is a paucity of data to predict early death or futility after trauma. The objective of this study was to characterize the laboratory values, blood product administration, and hospital disposition for patients with trauma who died within 72 h of admission.
METHODS: All deaths within 72 h of admission over a 5-y period at a level I trauma center were reviewed. Blood transfusion within the first 4 h of arrival and patient disposition from the emergency department to the operating room (OR), surgical intensive care unit, or the neuroscience intensive care unit (NSICU) were analyzed. Kaplan-Meier curves were generated to determine time to death.
RESULTS: A total of 622 subjects were identified; 39.5% died in the emergency department, 10.6% went directly to the OR, 13.6% were admitted to the surgical intensive care unit, and 29.7% admitted to the NSICU. Of these subjects, 201 (32.2%) patients received blood within the first 4 h. By 24 h, early blood transfusion was associated with more rapid death for patients who were admitted to the NSICU (80% versus 60% mortality, P = 0.01) but not for patients taken directly to the OR (80% versus 70% mortality, P = 0.2). Admission coagulopathy by international normalized ratio (P < 0.01), but not anemia (P = 0.64) or acidosis (P = 0.45), correlated with a shorter time to death. In contrast, laboratory values obtained at 4 h after admission did not correlate with time to death.
CONCLUSIONS: Our data demonstrate that admission coagulation derangement and need for early blood product transfusion are the two factors most associated with early death after injury, particularly in those patients with traumatic brain injury. These data will help construct future models for futility of continued care in patients with trauma.
BACKGROUND: Historically, it has been assumed that the Emergency Department (ED) is a place for maximally aggressive care and that Emergency Medicine Providers (EMPs) are biased towards life-prolonging care. However, emphasis on early recognition of code status preferences is increasingly making the ED a venue for code status discussions (CSDs). In 2018, our hospital implemented a policy requiring EMPs to place a code status order (CSO) for all patients admitted through the ED. We hypothesized that if EMPs enter CSDs with a bias toward life-prolonging care, or if the venue of the ED biases CSDs towards life-prolonging care, then we would observe a decrease in the percentage of patients selecting DNR status following our institution's aforementioned CSO mandate.
METHODS: We present a retrospective analysis of rates of DNR orders placed for patients admitted through our ED comparing six-month periods before and after the implementation of the above policy.
RESULTS: Using quality improvement data, we identified patients admitted through the ED during pre (n=7,858) and post (n=8,069) study periods. We observed the following: after implementation DNR preference identified prior to hospital admission from the ED increased from 0.4% to 5.3% (relative risk (RR) 12.5; 95% CI: 5.2-29.9), defining CS in the ED setting at the time of admission increased from 2.4% to 98.6% (p <0.001), and DNR orders placed during inpatient admission was unchanged (RR=0.97 (95% CI = 0.88-1.07)).
DISCUSSION: Our results suggest that the ED can be an appropriate venue for CSDs.
During the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, it is particularly critical to ensure that life-sustaining treatment (LST) such as intubation and resource-intensive cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) are aligned with a patient’s goals and values, and to avoid LSTs in patients with a poor prognosis that are unlikely to be beneficial, but have a high risk of causing additional suffering. The high volume and acuity of COVID-19 patients makes it extremely challenging for emergency department (ED) clinicians to take adequate time to clarify goals of care (GOC). We implemented an ED-based COVID-19 palliative care response team focused on providing high-quality GOC conversations in time-critical situations. We examined the clinical characteristics and outcomes of patients who received this intervention.
Methods: This retrospective observational study was conducted in the ED of an urban, quaternary care academic medical center in New York, New York. We included 110 patients for whom the palliative care team was consulted between March 27, 2020, and April 10, 2020, with follow-up through May 9, 2020. Columbia University institutional review board approved this study and waived the need for informed consent.
Emergency department clinicians consulted the palliative care team for assistance with any palliative care-related needs, including GOC clarification and cases where stated GOC did not align with expected prognosis. The palliative care team (1 attending physician who was board-certified in hospice and palliative medicine, 1 hospice/palliative medicine fellow clinician, and 4 psychiatry resident physicians and fellow clinicians, all trained in GOC conversations and supervised by the palliative care attending physician) was available in person 12 hours per day, and for phone consultation overnight and on weekends. The palliative care intervention focused on GOC conversations: conveying the prognosis in a clear and simple way, exploring patients’ goals and values, and making care recommendations based on elicited goals.1,2
Deidentified demographic data were collected from the medical record. Primary outcomes included GOC before and after palliative care intervention, as well as GOC on death or discharge. Secondary outcomes included clinical course and length of stay in the hospital
Goals of care were defined as “full code” (pursue all LSTs including intubation and CPR); “do-not-resuscitate (DNR) only” (pursue all LSTs excluding CPR); “DNR/do-not-intubate (DNI), continue medical treatment” (pursue all LSTs excluding intubation and CPR); and “comfort-directed care” (forgo LSTs, deliver symptom-focused treatment only). The GOC were presumed to be full code if no advance directives or medical orders for life-sustaining treatment (MOLST) were found on presentation to the ED.
Six patients were still hospitalized at the time of data review; they were excluded from the analysis for clinical course.
Results: The 110 patients were aged a median (range) of 81.5 (46-101) years and 61 (55.4%) were women. Patient demographic and clinical characteristics are reported in Table 1. Most patients were community-dwelling elderly persons (aged >75 years) with at least 2 comorbidities and lacked decision-making capacity at the time of presentation. Very few patients presented with documented advance directives or MOLST and therefore were presumed to be full code.
The primary outcomes are summarized in Table 2. After initial palliative care intervention, the number of full code decreased from 91 patients (82.7%) to 20 patients (18.2%). Among these 71 patients (64.5%) in whom CPR was declined, mechanical ventilation was also declined in 61 patients (55.5%) (ie, 32 patients in DNR/DNI, continue medical treatment, 29 patients in comfort-directed care). On discharge, the number of full code further decreased to 9 patients (8.6%), whereas comfort-directed care increased to 54 patients (51.9%). The median (range) length of stay was 4 (0-28) days and 71 patients (68.2%) died in the hospital. Among 33 patients (31.7%) who were discharged alive, 6 patients (5.8%) were discharged with hospice care.
Discussion: The included patients’ demographic characteristics were consistent with those of critically ill patients with COVID-19 previously reported and with those of patients reported to be at highest risk of death from COVID-19. Patients without advance care planning conversations are known to be at risk of receiving unwanted, high-intensity, lower-quality care,5 even though many seriously ill patients do not prefer LSTs at the end of life.6
The most important finding in this study was, after palliative care intervention in the ED, most patients and their surrogates opted to forgo mechanical ventilation and/or CPR, and that tendency further increased on discharge. We believe timely GOC conversations by the palliative care team helped avoid unwanted LSTs for patients with a poor prognosis. Study limitations include potentially limited generalizability given the retrospective design at a single institution. Also, palliative care consultation was initiated by ED clinicians, which may have led to selection bias, though a high rate of altered GOC after intervention suggests significant, unaddressed need in the outlying population.