BACKGROUND: Well detection of the symptoms and signs of dying patients is essential for providing proper palliative care. Our goal is to evaluate the predominant symptoms and compare the changes in dying patients with digestive tract cancer in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.
METHODS: A total of 1057 cancer patients aged 18 years or older admitted in palliative care units with locally advanced or metastatic gastroesophageal, colorectal, and pancreaticobiliary cancer were enrolled from January 2017 to March 2019. The severity of physical and psychological symptoms and signs assessed by physicians and/or nurses upon admission, 1 week after admission, and within 3 days of death, was compared according to cancer type and country of origin.
RESULTS: Among the 338 gastroesophageal, 358 pancreaticobiliary, and 361 colorectal cancer patients, 894 (93.1%) died during the observation period. Fatigue was the most severe symptom in all cancer groups before dying. Dyspnea, fatigue, drowsiness, and ascites improved after hospitalization albeit they worsened prior to death. In particular, ascites was a marked symptom in patients with pancreaticobiliary cancer. Delirium and hallucination gradually worsened during the period leading to death. Differences in manifestations with respect to the country of origin were not significant.
CONCLUSION: We identified the most prevalent signs and symptoms in patients from East Asia who were dying from digestive tract cancers. Proper management, based on these prevalent signs and symptoms during the dying period, plays a vital role in providing adequate palliative care.
Continuity of care (COC) has been emphasized in research on terminal cancer patients to increase the quality of end-of-life care; however, limited research has been conducted on end-stage renal disease patients. We applied a retrospective cohort design on 29,095 elderly patients with end-stage renal disease who died between 2005 and 2013. These patients were identified from the National Health Insurance Research Database of Taiwan. The provider Continuity of Care Index (COCI) and site COCI were calculated on the basis of outpatient visits during the 6-12 months before death. We discovered that increases in the provider COCI were significantly associated with reductions in health expenditures after adjusting for confounders, especially in inpatient and emergency departments, where the treatment intensity is high. Higher provider and site COC were also associated with lower utilization of acute care and invasive treatments in the last month before death. Provider COC had a greater effect on end-of-life care expenditures than site COC did, which indicated significant care coordination gaps within the same facility. Our findings support the recommendation of prioritizing the continuity of end-of-life care, especially provider continuity, for patients with end-stage renal disease.
Objective: Evidence is mixed regarding the impact of advance care planning (ACP) on place of death. This cohort study investigated the effect of ACP programmes on place of death and utilisation of life-sustaining treatments for patients during end-of-life (EOL) care.
Methods: This prospective cohort study identified deceased patients between 2015 and 2016 at Taipei City Hospital. ACP was determined by patients’ medical records and defined as a process to discuss patients’ preferences with respect to EOL treatments and place of death. Place of death included hospital or home death. Stepwise logistic regression determined the association of ACP with place of death and utilisation of life-sustaining treatments during EOL care.
Results: Of the 3196 deceased patients, the overall mean age was 78.6 years, and 46.5% of the subjects had an ACP communication with healthcare providers before death. During the study follow-up period, 166 individuals died at home, including 98 (6.59%) patients with ACP and 68 (3.98%) patients without ACP. After adjusting for sociodemographic factors and comorbidities, patients with ACP were more likely to die at home during EOL care (adjusted OR (AOR)=1.71, 95% CI 1.24 to 2.35). Moreover, patients with ACP were less likely to receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation (AOR 0.36, 95% CI 0.25 to 0.51) as well as intubation and mechanical ventilation support (AOR 0.54, 95% CI 0.44 to 0.67) during the last 3 months of life.
Conclusion: Patients with ACP were more likely to die at home and less likely to receive life-sustaining treatments during EOL care.
Background: The Western individualistic understanding of autonomy for advance care planning is considered not to reflect the Asian family-centered approach in medical decision-making. The study aim is to compare preferences on timing for advance care planning initiatives and life-sustaining treatment withdrawal between terminally-ill cancer patients and their family caregivers in Taiwan.
Methods: A prospective study using questionnaire survey was conducted with both terminally-ill cancer patient and their family caregiver dyads independently in inpatient and outpatient palliative care settings in a tertiary hospital in Northern Taiwan. Self-reported questionnaire using clinical scenario of incurable lung cancer was employed. Descriptive analysis was used for data analysis.
Results: Fifty-four patients and family dyads were recruited from 1 August 2019 to 15 January 2020. Nearly 80% of patients and caregivers agreed that advance care planning should be conducted when the patient was at a non-frail stage of disease. Patients’ frail stage of disease was considered the indicator for life-sustaining treatments withdrawal except for nutrition and fluid supplements, antibiotics or blood transfusions. Patient dyads considered that advance care planning discussions were meaningful without arousing emotional distress.
Conclusion: Patient dyads’ preferences on the timing of initiating advance care planning and life-sustaining treatments withdrawal were found to be consistent. Taiwanese people’s medical decision-making is heavily influenced by cultural characteristics including relational autonomy and filial piety. The findings could inform the clinical practice and policy in the wider Asia–Pacific region.
BACKGROUND: Patients with end-stage liver disease (ESLD) have limited treatment options and have a deteriorated quality of life with an uncertain prognosis. Early identification of ESLD patients with a poor prognosis is valuable, especially for palliative care. However, it is difficult to predict ESLD patients that require either acute care or palliative care.
OBJECTIVE: We sought to create a machine-learning monitoring system that can predict mortality or classify ESLD patients. Several machine-learning models with visualized graphs, decision trees, ensemble learning, and clustering were assessed.
METHODS: A retrospective cohort study was conducted using electronic medical records of patients from Wan Fang Hospital and Taipei Medical University Hospital. A total of 1214 patients from Wan Fang Hospital were used to establish a dataset for training and 689 patients from Taipei Medical University Hospital were used as a validation set.
RESULTS: The overall mortality rate of patients in the training set and validation set was 28.3% (257/907) and 22.6% (145/643), respectively. In traditional clinical scoring models, prothrombin time-international normalized ratio, which was significant in the Cox regression (P<.001, hazard ratio 1.288), had a prominent influence on predicting mortality, and the area under the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve reached approximately 0.75. In supervised machine-learning models, the concordance statistic of ROC curves reached 0.852 for the random forest model and reached 0.833 for the adaptive boosting model. Blood urea nitrogen, bilirubin, and sodium were regarded as critical factors for predicting mortality. Creatinine, hemoglobin, and albumin were also significant mortality predictors. In unsupervised learning models, hierarchical clustering analysis could accurately group acute death patients and palliative care patients into different clusters from patients in the survival group.
CONCLUSIONS: Medical artificial intelligence has become a cutting-edge tool in clinical medicine, as it has been found to have predictive ability in several diseases. The machine-learning monitoring system developed in this study involves multifaceted analyses, which include various aspects for evaluation and diagnosis. This strength makes the clinical results more objective and reliable. Moreover, the visualized interface in this system offers more intelligible outcomes. Therefore, this machine-learning monitoring system provides a comprehensive approach for assessing patient condition, and may help to classify acute death patients and palliative care patients. Upon further validation and improvement, the system may be used to help physicians in the management of ESLD patients.
Objectives: Evidence linking end-of-life-care quality in ICUs to bereaved family members’ psychologic distress remains limited by methodological insufficiencies of the few studies on this topic. To examine comprehensively the associations of family surrogates’ severe anxiety and depressive symptoms with end-of-life-care quality in ICUs over their first 6 months of bereavement.
Design: Prospective, longitudinal, observational study.
Setting/Participants: Family surrogates (n = 278) were consecutively recruited from seven medical ICUs at two academically affiliated medical centers in Taiwan.
Measurements and Statistical Analysis: Family surrogates’ anxiety and depressive symptoms were assessed 1, 3, and 6 months postloss using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. Family satisfaction with end-of-life care in ICUs was assessed 1-month postloss by the Family Satisfaction in the ICU questionnaire. Patients’ end-of-life care was documented over the patient’s ICU stay. Associations of severe anxiety and depressive symptoms (scores = 8 for each subscale) with end-of-life-care quality in ICUs (documented by patient care received and family satisfaction with end-of-life care in ICUs) were examined by multivariate logistic regression models with generalized estimating equation.
Main Results: Prevalence of severe anxiety and depressive symptoms decreased significantly over time. Surrogates’ lower likelihood of severe anxiety or depressive symptoms 3–6 month postloss was associated with death without cardiopulmonary resuscitation, withdrawing life-sustaining treatments, and higher family satisfaction with end-of-life care in ICUs. Bereaved surrogates’ higher likelihood of these symptoms was associated with physician-surrogate prognostic communication and conducting family meetings before patients died.
Conclusions: End-of-life-care quality in ICUs is associated with bereaved surrogates’ psychologic well-being. Enhancing end-of-life-care quality in ICUs by improving the process of end-of-life care, for example, promoting death without cardiopulmonary resuscitation, withdrawing life-sustaining treatments, and increasing family satisfaction with end-of-life care, can lighten bereaved family surrogates’ severe anxiety symptoms and severe depressive symptoms.
BACKGROUND: In the palliative care setting, infection control measures implemented due to COVID-19 have become barriers to end-of-life care discussions (eg, discharge planning and withdrawal of life-sustaining treatments) between patients, their families, and multidisciplinary medical teams. Strict restrictions in terms of visiting hours and the number of visitors have made it difficult to arrange in-person family conferences. Phone-based telehealth consultations may be a solution, but the lack of nonverbal cues may diminish the clinician-patient relationship. In this context, video-based, smartphone-enabled family conferences have become important.
OBJECTIVE: We aimed to establish a smartphone-enabled telehealth model for palliative care family conferences. Our model integrates principles from the concept of shared decision making (SDM) and the value, acknowledge, listen, understand, and elicit (VALUE) approach.
METHODS: Family conferences comprised three phases designed according to telehealth implementation guidelines-the previsit, during-visit, and postvisit phases. We incorporated the following SDM elements into the model: "team talk," "option talk," and "decision talk." The model has been implemented at a national cancer treatment center in Taiwan since February 2020.
RESULTS: From February to April 2020, 14 telehealth family conferences in the palliative care unit were analyzed. The patients' mean age was 73 (SD 10.1) years; 6 out of 14 patients (43%) were female and 12 (86%) were married. The primary caregiver joining the conference virtually comprised mostly of spouses and children (n=10, 71%). The majority of participants were terminally ill patients with cancer (n=13, 93%), with the exception of 1 patient with stroke. Consensus on care goals related to discharge planning and withdrawal of life-sustaining treatments was reached in 93% (n=13) of cases during the family conferences. In total, 5 families rated the family conferences as good or very good (36%), whereas 9 were neutral (64%).
CONCLUSIONS: Smartphone-enabled telehealth for palliative care family conferences with SDM and VALUE integration demonstrated high satisfaction for families. In most cases, it was effective in reaching consensus on care decisions. The model may be applied to other countries to promote quality in end-of-life care in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
BACKGROUND: Regulations on forgoing life-sustaining treatment (LST) have developed in Asian countries including Japan, Korea and Taiwan. However, other countries are relatively unaware of these due to the language barrier. This article aims to describe and compare the relevant regulatory frameworks, using the (more familiar) situation in England as a point of reference. We undertook literature reviews to ascertain the legal and regulatory positions on forgoing LST in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and England.
MAIN TEXT: Findings from a literature review are first presented to describe the development of the regulatory frameworks surrounding the option of forgoing LST in each country. Based on the findings from the four countries, we suggest five ethically important points, reflection on which should help to inform the further development of regulatory frameworks concerning end-of-life care in these countries and beyond. There should be reflection on: (1) the definition of - and reasons for defining - the 'terminal stage' and associated criteria for making such judgements; Korea and Taiwan limit forgoing LST to patients in this stage, but there are risks associated with defining this too narrowly or broadly; (2) foregoing LST for patients who are not in this stage, as is allowed in Japan and England, because here too there are areas of controversy, including (in England) whether the law in this area does enough to respect the autonomy of (now) incapacitated patients; (3) whether 'foregoing' LST should encompass withholding and withdrawing treatment; this is also an ethically disputed area, particularly in the Asian countries we examine; (4) the family's role in end-of-life decision-making, particularly as, compared with England, the three Asian countries traditionally place a greater emphasis on families and communities than on individuals; and (5) decision-making with and for those incapacitated patients who lack families, surrogate decision-makers or ADs.
CONCLUSION: Comparison of, and reflection on, the different legal positions that obtain in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and England should prove informative and we particularly invite reflection on five areas, in the hope the ensuing discussions will help to establish better end-of-life regulatory frameworks in these countries and elsewhere.
Persons with dementia are at high risk for loss of decision-making ability due to increased cognitive decline as the disease progresses. Participation in advance care planning (ACP) discussions in the early stages of dementia is crucial for end-of-life (EoL) decision-making to ensure quality of EoL care. A lack of discussions about ACP and EoL care between persons with dementia and family caregivers (FCGs), can lead to decisional conflicts when persons with dementia are in the later stages of the disease. This study explored the effects of a family-centered ACP information intervention among persons with dementia and FCGs. The study was conducted in outpatient clinics in Taiwan. Participants were dyads (n = 40) consisting of persons diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment or mild dementia and their FCGs. A one-group, pretest-posttest, pre-experimental design was employed. The intervention was provided by an ACP-trained senior registered nurse and was guided by ACP manuals and family-centered strategies. Outcome data were collected with four structured questionnaires regarding knowledge of end-stage dementia treatment, knowledge of ACP, attitude towards ACP, and EoL decisional conflict about acceptance or refusal of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, ventilators, and tracheostomy. Paired t tests compared differences between pre-intervention data and 4-weeks' post-intervention data. The intervention resulted in significant improvements among persons with dementia and FCGs for knowledge of end-stage dementia treatment (p = .008 and p < .001, respectively), knowledge of ACP (both p < .001), and significant reductions in decisional conflicts (both p < .001). Scores for positive and negative attitude toward ACP did not change for persons with dementia; however, there was a reduction in negative attitude for FCGs (p = .001). Clinical care for persons with dementia should incorporate ACP interventions that provide knowledge about EoL dementia care using family-centered care strategies that facilitate regular and continuous communication between FCGs, persons with dementia, and medical personnel to reduce decisional conflicts for EoL care.
Physicians have a responsibility to discuss do-not-resuscitate (DNR) decisions and end-of-life (EOL) care with patients and family members. The aim of this study was to explore the DNR and EOL care discussion experience among physicians in Taiwan. A qualitative study was conducted with 16 physicians recruited from the departments of hospice care, surgery, internal medicine, emergency, and the intensive care unit. The interview guidelines included their DNR experience and process and EOL care discussions, as well as their concerns, difficulties, or worries in discussions. Thematic analysis was used to analyze data. Four themes were identified. First, family members had multiple roles in the decision process. Second, the characteristics of the units, including time urgency and relationships with patients and family members, influenced physicians' work. Third, the process included preparation, exploration, information delivery, barrier solution, and execution. Fourth, physicians shared reflections on their ability and the conflicts between law, medical professionals, and the best interests of patients. Physicians must consider not only patients' but also family members' opinions and surmount several barriers in decision-making. They also experienced negative and positive impacts from these discussions.
Objective: End-of-life cancer care imposes a heavy financial burden on patients, their families, and their health insurers. The aim of this study was to explore the 8-year (2004-2011) trends in health-care costs for Taiwanese cancer decedents in their last month of life and, specifically, to assess the association of these trends with hospice care.
Materials and Methods: We conducted a population-based longitudinal study and analyzed data from Taiwan's National Health Insurance Research Database. The data consisted of not only claims information - costs of hospitalization and outpatient department visits - but also the associated patient characteristics, catastrophic illness status, hospice patient designation, and insurance system exit date (the proxy for death).
Results: A total of 11,104 cancer decedents were enrolled, and 2144 (19.3%) of these patients received hospice care. The rate of hospice service use increased from 14.9% to 21.5% over 8 years. From 2004 to 2011, the mean health-care cost per day in the last month of life increased 8.2% (from US$93 ± $108 in 2004 to US$101 ± $110 in 2011; P = 0001). We compared three groups of patients who received hospice care for more than 1 month (long-H group), received hospice care for 30 days or less (short-H group), and did not receive hospice care (non-H group). Compared to non-H group, long-H group had a significantly lower mean health-care cost per day during their last month of life (US$85.7 ± 57.3 vs. US$102.4 ± 120) (P < 0001). Furthermore, compared to short-H and non-H groups, patients in the long-H group had lower probabilities of receiving chemotherapy and visiting the emergency department more than once. They also incurred lower health-care costs (US$77.1 ± 58.1 vs. US$92.2 ± 56.0 for short-H group and US$102.4 ± 120 for non-H group) (P < 0001).
Conclusion: Health-care costs in the last month of life are increasing over time in Taiwan. Nonetheless, health-care costs for patients receiving hospice can be as much as 16.3% lower than patients not receiving hospice care. Patients receiving hospice care for more than 30 days also had lower health-care costs than those receiving care for <30 days.
Background: Medical staff may have difficulties in using conventional medicine to manage symptoms among terminally ill patients, including adverse effects of the treatment. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is regarded as a complementary or alternative medicine, and has been increasingly used in the field of palliative medicine in recent years. This study aimed to investigate the experiences of and attitudes toward using TCM among palliative care professionals, and to provide preliminary information about its use in palliative care.
Methods: This was a cross-sectional survey study conducted in eight inpatient hospice wards in Taiwan between December 2014 and February 2016. The questionnaire was self-administered, and was analyzed with descriptive statistics including Pearson’s Chi-square test and Fisher’s exact test.
Results: A total of 251 palliative care professionals responded to the questionnaire, of whom 89.7% and 88.9% believed that the use of TCM could improve the physical symptoms and quality of life in terminally ill patients, respectively. Overall, 59.8%, of respondents suggested that TCM had rare side effects, and 58.2% were worried that TCM could affect the liver and kidney function of patients. In total, 89.7% and 88.0% of professionals agreed there were no suitable clinical practice guidelines and educational programs, respectively, for TCM use in palliative care.
Conclusions: Most of the respondents agreed there was insufficient knowledge, skills-training, and continuing education on the use of TCM in terminally ill patients in Taiwan. These results show that to address patient safety considerations, guidelines about use of TCM in palliative care should be established.
This study aimed to elucidate the predictors and the effects of path modeling on the knowledge, attitude, and practice toward do-not-resuscitate (DNR) among the Taiwanese nursing staff. This study was a cross-sectional, descriptive design using stratified cluster sampling. We collected data on demographics, knowledge, attitude, and practice as measured by the DNR inventory (KAP-DNR), Mindful Attention Awareness Scale, General Self-Efficacy Scale, and Dispositional Resilience Scale. Participants were 194 nursing staff from a medical center in northern Taiwan in 2019. The results showed that participation in DNR signature and education related to palliative care were significant positive predictors of knowledge toward DNR. The DNR predictors toward attitude included DNR knowledge, mindfulness, self-efficacy, dispositional resilience, and religious belief of nurses. Generally, the critical predictors of DNR practice were DNR attitude, dispositional resilience, and male nurses. In path modeling, we identified that self-efficacy, dispositional resilience, master's degree, and religious belief directly influenced practice constituting DNR. Based on the findings of this study, we propose that nurses should improve their self-efficacy and dispositional resilience through training programs. Encouraging staff to undertake further education and have religious beliefs can enhance the practice of DNR and provide better end-of-life care.
CONTEXT: The impact of hospice care services on the utilisation of life-sustaining treatments during end-of-life care in terminally ill patients has not been extensively studied.
OBJECTIVES: To determine the impact of hospice care services on the utilisation of life-sustaining treatments during the last three months of life among cancer patients.
METHODS: This nationwide population-based cohort study identified adults with cancer diagnosis from the Taiwan Registry for Catastrophic Illness, 2006-2016. Life-sustaining treatments included cardiopulmonary resuscitation, intubation, mechanical ventilation support, nasogastric tube feeding, and total parenteral nutrition. Hospice care services consisted of hospice inpatient care, hospice-shared care, and hospice home care. The association of hospice care services with the utilisation of life-sustaining treatments was determined using multiple logistic regression.
RESULTS: Of 516,409 cancer patients, 310,722 (60.2%) patients utilised life-sustaining treatments during the last three months of life. After adjusting for covariates, patients with hospice care services were less likely to receive life-sustaining treatments during the last 3 months of life than those without the services (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]=0.70, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.69-0.71). While type of life-sustaining treatments considered, hospice care services were associated with a lower likelihood of receiving cardiopulmonary resuscitation (AOR=0.125, 95% CI: 0.118-0.131), endotracheal intubation (AOR=0.204, 95% CI: 0.199-0.210), mechanical ventilation support (AOR=0.265, 95% CI: 0.260-0.270), nasogastric tube feeding (AOR=0.736, 95% CI: 0.727-0.744), and total parenteral nutrition (AOR=0.86, 95% CI: 0.84-0.88).
CONCLUSION: Hospice care services were associated with a lower likelihood of receiving life-sustaining treatments during the last three months of life in cancer patients.
Ageing has been recognized as one of the most critically important health-care issues worldwide. It is relevant to Asia, where the increasing number of older populations has drawn attention to the paramount need for health-care investment, particularly in end-of-life care. The advocacy of advance care planning is a mean to honor patient autonomy. Since most East Asian countries are influenced by Confucianism and the concept of 'filial piety,' patient autonomy is consequently subordinate to family values and physician authority. The dominance from family members and physicians during a patient's end-of-life decision-making is recognized as a cultural feature in Asia. Physicians often disclose the patient's poor prognosis and corresponding treatment options to the male, family member rather to the patient him/herself. In order to address this ethical and practical dilemma, the concept of 'relational autonomy' and the collectivism paradigm might be ideally used to assist Asian people, especially older adults, to share their preferences on future care and decision-making on certain clinical situations with their families and important others. In this review article, we invited experts in end-of-life care from Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan to briefly report the current status of advance care planning in each country from policy, legal and clinical perspectives. According to the Asian experiences, we have seen different models of advance care planning implementation. The Asian Delphi Taskforce for advance care planning is currently undertaken by six Asian countries and a more detailed, culturally sensitive whitepaper will be published in the near future.
Background: The characteristics of physician communication with patients at the end of life (EOL) in East Asia have not been well studied. We investigated physicians' communications with imminently dying patients with cancer and their families in palliative care units (PCUs) in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.
Methods: This observational study included patients with cancer newly admitted and deceased during their first admission to 39 PCUs in three countries. We evaluated 1) the prevalence and timing of informing patients and families of patients' impending death and 2) the prevalence of communication to assure the families of the patient's comfort.
Results: We analyzed 2138 patients (Japan: 1633, South Korea: 256, Taiwan: 249). Fewer Japanese (4.8%: 95% confidence interval [95% CI], 3.8%–5.9%) and South Korean (19.6%: 95% CI, 15.2%–25.0%) patients were informed of their impending death, whereas 66.4% (95% CI, 60.2%–72.1%) of Taiwanese were informed; among all three countries, =90% of families were informed. Although most patients in all three countries and the families in South Korea and Taiwan were informed of the impending death greater than or equal to four days before death, 62.1% (95% CI, 59.6%–64.6%) of Japanese families were informed less than or equal to three days prior. Most families in all three countries received assurance that the patient would remain comfortable (could hear until death, no distress with death rattle or respiration with mandibular movement).
Conclusions: Physicians in Taiwan communicated about patient's impending death most frequently, and physicians in all three countries generally provided assurance to families that the patients would remain comfortable. Further studies should explore the reasons for these differences and the effects of such communications in East Asia.
Background: Difficulties in prognostication are common deterrents to palliative care among dementia patients. This study aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of palliative care in reducing the extent of utilization of medical services and the potential risk factors of mortality among dementia patients receiving palliative care.
Methods: We surveyed dementia patients involved in a palliative care program at a long-term care facility in Taipei, Taiwan. We enrolled 57 patients with advanced dementia (clinical dementia rating = 5 or functional assessment staging test stage 7b). We then compared the extent of their utilization of medical services before and after the provision of palliative care. Based on multivariable logistic regression, we identified potential risk factors before and after the provision of palliative care associated with 6-month mortality.
Results: The utilization of medical services was significantly lower among dementia patients after the provision of palliative care than before, including visits to medical departments (p < 0.001), medications prescribed (p < 0.001), frequency of hospitalization (p < 0.001), and visits to the emergency room (p < 0.001). Moreover, patients dying within 6 months after the palliative care program had a slightly but not significantly higher number of admissions before receiving hospice care (p = 0.058) on univariate analysis. However, no significant differences were observed in multivariate analysis.
Conclusions: The provision of palliative care to dementia patients reduces the extent of utilization of medical services. However, further studies with larger patient cohorts are required to stratify the potential risk factors of mortality in this patient group.
OBJECTIVES: Women with terminal cancer are assumed to choose hospice care over aggressive treatment at the end of life. With new chemotherapy and target therapy options, it becomes more difficult to decide between hospice care and aggressive management. It is also crucial to consider the cost increases leading to severe financial burdens on healthcare systems. To better understand treatment options at the individual level, this study set out to describe trends in end-of-life care for the four leading cancers in women in Taiwan.
STUDY DESIGN: This was a population-based retrospective cohort study.
METHODS: The data source was obtained between January 1, 2000, and December 31, 2013, from Taiwan's National Health Insurance Research Database. We identified 98,575 women with a diagnosis of breast (18,596), colorectal (23,734), liver and biliary (28,795) or lung (27,450) cancer who had died during the study period. Hospital data for services provided in the last 6 months of life, including hospice services and aggressive managements (chemotherapy, frequent hospitalisation, emergency room [ER] visits, intensive care unit [ICU] admission and endotracheal intubation), were collected.
RESULTS: Hospice utilisation increased over the study period, with 25.85%, 25.34%, 21.23% and 26.55% of female patients with breast, colorectal, liver and biliary, and lung cancer receiving hospice care, respectively. However, the number of women undergoing aggressive treatments in the last 6 months of life remained high, with the breast cancer group having the highest chemotherapy rate, the colorectal cancer group having frequent hospitalisation and the liver and biliary cancer group having frequent ER visits and ICU admissions.
CONCLUSIONS: Increasing hospice utilisation among women with the four most common cancers in Taiwan indicates that hospice services have gradually become well accepted over the past 13 years; however, the real focus is on the ineffective treatment preceding hospice care, and late referral was also a notable problem.
BACKGROUND: In 2019, the Patient Autonomy Act went into effect, allowing Taiwanese citizens to establish legal advance decisions. In an effort to secure a more realistic and accurate perception of situations, a virtual reality video was developed by the palliative care team of Chi-Mei hospital in southern Taiwan for citizens to use before advance care planning. This study explores the change in participants' preference and certainty regarding end-of-life decisions after using this tool.
METHODS: Participants were at least 20 years old and capable of reading and understanding the information provided in the written handout with information about the legal process of making an advance decision. They completed pre-test questionnaires, viewed a six-minute 360-degree virtual reality video on a portable headset, and then completed a post-test questionnaire about their preference on the five medical options-CPR, life-sustaining treatments, antibiotics, blood transfusion, and artificial nutrition and hydration-followed by feedback on the helpfulness of the virtual reality. The control group included 40 participants who only read the handout and completed pre-test and post-test questionnaires.
RESULTS: After viewing the virtual reality video, preference for not using CPR, life-sustaining treatment, antibiotics, blood transfusion, and artificial nutrition and hydration increased significantly in the virtual reality intervention group. Uncertainty regarding the five medical options mentioned above significantly decreased. The intervention was generally recognized by participants for its help in making decisions.
DISCUSSION: The decrease in the number of participants who could not make decisions indicates that the virtual reality video may be helpful for users in making end-of-life decision. According to feedback, the virtual reality video helped equip users with better understanding of medical scenarios, and that it is a good decision tool for advance care planning.
CONCLUSION: This is the first study since the Patient Autonomy Act has been passed that explores the effectiveness of using a virtual reality video as a decision tool in advance care planning and reveals decreased preference of CPR, life sustaining treatment, antibiotics, blood transfusion, and artificial nutrition and hydration after intervention. This decision aid proved to be an effective tool for clarifying their end-of-life care preferences.
BACKGROUND: Family caregivers of patients on prolonged mechanical ventilation (PMV) may encounter challenges concerning medical decision-making besides witnessing patient suffering. Palliative care (PC) should be a good support for both patients and caregivers; however, for PMV families, PC is not always a choice through long companion time. This qualitative study clarifies family caregivers' burden of assisting patients on PMV and evaluates the need for PC information and support.
METHODS: Interviews were caregivers of patients on ventilator support for more than 60 days in five hospitals of the Taipei City Hospital System. Based on phenomenology, this study was conducted by using a semistructured questionnaire comprising three questions: (I) what was the most crucial moment of deciding to intubate? (II) how would you describe the quality of life of your ventilator-dependent family member? (III) what type of assistance do you expect from the PC team for your ventilator-dependent family member?
RESULTS: Twenty-one caregivers of patients on PMV in five hospitals of the Taipei City Hospital System agreed to participate in face-to-face interviews. The identified themes, including stressful decision-making, companion pain/discomfort, and unwillingness to accept PC, elucidated the difficulties experienced by caregivers when providing care.
CONCLUSIONS: Understanding family caregivers' experiences can enable physicians to improve communication with them, encourage the PC team to support them during surrogate decision-making for patients on PMV during critical moments, and enhance the overall PC service.