OBJECTIVE: Volunteers are an important resource in bridging palliative care (PC) services and communities. However, no studies have systematically mapped volunteers' actual contributions to PC provision and how well they are supported by healthcare services at the volunteer level. Such insights are important to shape and optimise supportive environments for volunteering in PC. This study aimed to describe organised volunteering practices in PC across dedicated PC services and healthcare services providing generalist PC, in terms of tasks, training, supervision and how volunteers evaluate these.
METHODS: A cross-sectional postal survey of 2273 volunteers from healthcare organisations providing care for people with serious illnesses in the Flemish healthcare system (Belgium) was conducted between June and November 2018. A two-step cluster randomised sample was used. Volunteers were recruited through their respective volunteering organisations.
RESULTS: Response was obtained for 801 (35.2%) volunteers. Volunteers were predominantly women (75.5%), retired (70.8%) and aged 60-69 years (43.4%). Almost all volunteers provided psychosocial care (96.3%). Volunteers were found to provide either (1) broad volunteer support, emphasising psychosocial and existential care and signposting tasks or (2) narrow volunteer support, emphasising nursing care tasks. Nursing home volunteers had the lowest prevalence of PC training (7.7% vs 53.7% total, p<0.001).
CONCLUSIONS: Multidimensional support was most prevalent among dedicated PC volunteers, while practical support was most prevalent among sitting service volunteers. Results indicate that volunteers can offer complementary support for patients with serious illnesses, although this requires training and consistent supervision. This is currently suboptimal for volunteers in nursing homes and community home care.
BACKGROUND: Palliative and end-of-life care development is hindered by a lack of information about the circumstances surrounding dying in developing and resource-poor countries. Our aims were to develop and obtain face and content validity for a self-administered questionnaire on end-of-life care provision and medical decision-making for use in population-based surveys.
METHODS: Modelled on validated questionnaires from research in developed countries, our questionnaire was adapted to the cultural sensitivity and medico-legal context of Trinidad and Tobago. Two sets of semi-structured face-to-face cognitive interviews were done with a sample of physicians, sampling was purposive. Phase 1 assessed interpretation of the questions, terminology and content of the questionnaire. Phase 2 was tested on a heterogeneous group of physicians to identify and fix problematic questions or recurring issues. Adjustments were made incrementally and re-tested in successive interviews.
RESULTS: Eighteen physicians were interviewed nationwide. Adaptations to questionnaires used in developed countries included: addition of a definition of palliative care, change of sensitive words like expedited to influenced, adjustments to question formulations, follow-up questions and answer options on medications used were added, the sequence, title and layout were changed and instructions for completion were included at the beginning of the questionnaire.
CONCLUSION: A new instrument for assessing and documenting end-of-life care and circumstances of dying in a small, resource-poor Caribbean country was developed and validated, and can be readily used as a mortality follow-back instrument. Our methods and procedures of development can be applied as a guide for similar studies in other small developing countries.
BACKGROUND: Children with serious illness suffer from symptoms at the end of life that often fail to be relieved. An overview is required of healthcare interventions improving and decreasing quality of life (QOL) for children with serious illness at the end of life.
METHODS: A systematic review was performed in five databases, January 2000 to July 2018 without language limit. Reviewers selected quantitative studies with a healthcare intervention, for example, medication or treatment, and QOL outcomes or QOL-related measures, for example, symptoms, for children aged 1-17 years with serious illness. One author assessed outcomes with the QualSyst and GRADE (Grades of Recommendation, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation) Framework; two authors checked a 25% sample. QOL improvement or reduction was categorized.
RESULTS: Thirty-six studies met the eligibility criteria studying 20 unique interventions. Designs included 1 randomized controlled trial, 1 cross-sectional study, and 34 cohort studies. Patient-reported symptom monitoring increased QOL significantly in cancer patients in a randomized controlled trial. Dexmedetomidine, methadone, ventilation, pleurodesis, and palliative care were significantly associated with improved QOL, and chemotherapy, stem cell transplant, and hospitalization with reduced QOL, in cohort studies.
CONCLUSIONS: Use of patient-controlled symptom feedback, multidisciplinary palliative care teams with full-time practical support, inhalation therapy, and off-label sedative medication may improve QOL. Curative therapy may reduce QOL.
IMPACT: QOL for children at the end of life may be improved with patient-controlled symptom feedback, multidisciplinary palliative care teams with full-time practical support, inhalation therapy, and off-label sedative medication.QOL for children at the end of life may be reduced with therapy with a curative intent, such as curative chemotherapy or stem cell transplant.A comprehensive overview of current evidence to elevate currently often-failing QOL management for children at the end of life.New paradigm-level indicators for appropriate and inappropriate QOL management in children at the end of life.New hypotheses for future research, guided by the current knowledge within the field.Various healthcare interventions (as described above) could or might be employed as tools to provide relief in QOL management for children with serious illness, such as cancer, at the end of life, and therefore could be discussed in pediatrician end-of-life training to limit the often failed QOL management in this population, cave the one-size-fits-all approach for individual cases.Multidisciplinary team efforts and 24/7 presence, especially practical support for parents, might characterize effective palliative care team interventions for children with serious illness at the end of life, suggesting a co-regulating link between well-being of the child partly to that of the parentsHypothesis-oriented research is needed, especially for children with nonmalignant disorders, such as genetic or neurological disorders at the end of life, as well as QOL outcomes for intervention research and psychosocial or spiritual outcomes.
OBJECTIVE: Communication and patient-centred care are important determinants for timely initiation of palliative care. Therefore, we aimed to understand and explain the behaviour "starting a conversation about palliative care with a professional carer" from the perspective of people with incurable cancer.
METHODS: A qualitative study using semi-structured face-to-face interviews with 25 people with incurable cancer: 13 not (yet) receiving palliative care and 12 receiving palliative care; 4 started the conversation themselves. Determinants related to the defined behaviour were matched with concepts in existing behavioural theories.
RESULTS: Both positive and negative stances towards starting a conversation about palliative care with a professional carer were found. Influencing behavioural factors were identified, such as knowledge (e.g. about palliative care), attitude (e.g. association of palliative care with quality of life) and social influence (e.g. relationship with the professional carer). We modelled the determinants into a behavioural model.
CONCLUSION: The behavioural model developed helps to explain why people with incurable cancer do or do not start a conversation about palliative care with their professional carer. By targeting the modifiable determinants of the model, promising interventions can be developed to help patients taken the initiative in communication about palliative care with a professional carer.
BACKGROUND: Valuable information for planning future end-of-life care (EOLC) services and care facilities can be gained by studying trends in place of death (POD). Scarce data exist on the POD in small developing countries. This study aims to examine shifts in the POD of all persons dying between 1999 and 2010 in Trinidad and Tobago, to draw conclusions about changes in the distribution of POD over time and the possible implications for EOLC practice and policy.
METHODS: A population-level analysis of routinely collected death certificate data of the most recent available fully coded years at the time of the study-1999 to 2010. Observed proportions for the POD of all deaths were standardised according to the age, sex and cause of death distribution in 1999. Trends for a subgroup of persons who died from causes indicative of a palliative care (PC) need were also examined.
RESULTS: The proportion of deaths in government hospitals increased from 48.9% to 55.4% and decreased from 38.7% to 29.7% at private homes. There was little variation between observed and standardised rates. The decrease in home deaths was stronger when the PC subcategory was considered, most notably from cancer.
CONCLUSION: Internationally, the proportion of deaths at institutions is increasing. A national strategy on palliative and EOLC is needed to facilitate the increasing number of people who seek EOLC at government hospitals in Trinidad and Tobago, including an investigation into the reasons for the trend. Alternatives to accommodate out-of-hospital deaths can be considered.
BACKGROUND: COPD patients often use many medical resources, such as hospital admissions and medical imaging, inappropriately close to death. Palliative home care (PHC) could beneficially affect his.
AIM: To study the effect of use and timing of PHC on medical resource use and costs in the last 30 }days before death (DBD) for COPD.
METHODS: Retrospective study of all Belgian decedents in 2010-2015 with COPD and a primary cause of death being COPD or cardiovascular diseases. Odds ratios (OR) for medical resources were calculated between using and four PHC timing categories (>360; 360-181; 180-91; 90-31 DBD) versus not using. Confounders were socio-demographic, care intensity and disease severity variables.
RESULTS: Of the 58 527 decedents with COPD, 644 patients (1.1%) received PHC earlier than 30 DBD. Using PHC (versus not using) decreased the OR for hospitalisation (0.35), intensive care unit admission (0.16), specialist contacts (0.58), invasive ventilation (IV) (0.13), medical imaging including chest radiograph (0.34), sedatives (0.48) and hospital death (0.14). It increased the OR for home care (3.27), general practitioner contact (4.65), palliative care unit admission (2.61), non-IV (2.65), gastric tube (2.15), oxygen (2.22) and opioids (4.04) (p<0.001). Mean total healthcare costs were €1569 lower for using PHC. All PHC timing categories showed a benefit in medical resource use and costs. However, we observed the largest benefit in the category PHC 90-31 DBD.
CONCLUSION: Health policy and services should focus on increasing PHC access, while research should further explore early PHC initiation for COPD. Funding SBO IWT nr. 140009.
OBJECTIVES: Dementia is a progressive incurable life-limiting illness. Previous research suggests end-of-life care for people with dementia should have a symptomatic focus with an effort to avoid burdensome interventions that would not improve quality of life. This study aims to assess the appropriateness of end-of-life care in people who died with dementia in Belgium and to establish relative performance standards by measuring validated population-level quality indicators.
DESIGN: We conducted a retrospective observational study.
SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: We included all persons deceased with dementia in 2015 in Belgium. Data from 8 administratively collected population-level databases was linked.
MEASURES: We used a validated set of 28 quality indicators for end-of-life dementia care. We compared quality indicator scores across 14 healthcare regions to establish relative benchmarks.
RESULTS: In Belgium in 2015, 10,629 people died with dementia. For indicators of appropriate end-of-life care, people who died with dementia had on average 1.83 contacts with their family physician in the last week before death, whereas 68.4% died at home or in their nursing home of residence. For indicators of inappropriate end-of-life care, 32.4% were admitted to the hospital and 36.3% underwent diagnostic testing in the last 30 days before death, whereas 25.1% died in the hospital. In the last 30 days, emergency department admission varied between 19% and 31%, dispensing of gastric protectors between 18% and 42%, and antihypertensives between 40% and 53% between healthcare regions, with at least 25% of health regions below 46%.
CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: Our study found indications of appropriate as well as inappropriate end-of-life care in people with dementia, including high rates of family physician contact, as well as high percentages of diagnostic testing, and emergency department and hospital admissions. We also found high risk-adjusted variation for multiple quality indicators, indicating opportunity for quality improvement in end-of-life dementia care.
BACKGROUND: Moral distress and burnout related to end-of-life decisions in neonates is common in neonatologists and nurses working in neonatal intensive care units. Attention to their emotional burden and psychological support in research is lacking.
AIM: To evaluate perceived psychological support in relation to end-of-life decisions of neonatologists and nurses working in Flemish neonatal intensive care units and to analyse whether or not this support is sufficient.
DESIGN/PARTICIPANTS: A self-administered questionnaire was sent to all neonatologists and neonatal nurses of all eight Flemish neonatal intensive care units (Belgium) in May 2017. The response rate was 63% (52/83) for neonatologists and 46% (250/527) for nurses. Respondents indicated their level of agreement (5-point Likert-type scale) with seven statements regarding psychological support.
RESULTS: About 70% of neonatologists and nurses reported experiencing more stress than normal when confronted with an end-of-life decision; 86% of neonatologists feel supported by their colleagues when they make end-of-life decisions, 45% of nurses feel that the treating physician listens to their opinion when end-of-life decisions are made. About 60% of both neonatologists and nurses would like more psychological support offered by their department when confronted with end-of-life decisions, and 41% of neonatologists and 50% of nurses stated they did not have enough psychological support from their department when a patient died. Demographic groups did not differ in terms of perceived lack of sufficient support.
CONCLUSION: Even though neonatal intensive care unit colleagues generally support each other in difficult end-of-life decisions, the psychological support provided by their department is currently not sufficient. Professional ad hoc counselling or standard debriefings could substantially improve this perceived lack of support.
Aim: To assess the number of end-of-life care studies that have used behavioural theories, which theories were used, to what extent main constructs were explored/measured and which behavioural outcomes were examined.
Design: We conducted a systematic review. The protocol was registered on PROSPERO (CRD42016036009).
Data sources: The MEDLINE (PubMed), PsycINFO, EMBASE, Web of Science and CINAHL databases were searched from inception to June 2017. We included studies aimed at understanding or changing end-of-life care behaviours and that explicitly referred to individual behavioural theories.
Results: We screened 2231 records by title and abstract, retrieved 43 full-text articles and included 31 studies – 27 quantitative (of which four (quasi-)randomised controlled trials) and four qualitative – for data extraction. More than half used the Theory of Planned Behaviour (9), the Theory of Reasoned Action (4) or the Transtheoretical Model (8). In 9 of 31 studies, the theory was fully used, and 16 of the 31 studies focussed on behaviours in advance care planning.
Conclusion: In end-of-life care research, the use of behavioural theories is limited. As many behaviours can determine the quality of care, their more extensive use may be warranted if we want to better understand and influence behaviours and improve end-of-life care.
CONTEXT: Making end-of-life decisions in neonates involves ethically difficult and distressing dilemmas for healthcare providers. Insight into which factors complicate or facilitate this decision-making process could be a necessary first step in formulating recommendations to aid future practice.
OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to identify barriers to and facilitators of the end-of-life decision-making process as perceived by neonatologists and nurses.
METHODS: We conducted semi-structured face-to-face interviews with 15 neonatologists and 15 neonatal nurses, recruited through four neonatal intensive care units in Flanders, Belgium. They were asked what factors had facilitated and complicated previous end-of-life decision-making processes. Two researchers independently analysed the data, using thematic content analysis to extract and summarize barriers and facilitators.
RESULTS: Barriers and facilitators were found at three distinct levels: the case-specific context (e.g. uncertainty of the diagnosis and specific characteristics of the child, the parents and the healthcare providers which make decision-making more difficult), the decision-making process (e.g. multidisciplinary consultations and advance care planning (ACP) which make decision-making easier), and the overarching structure (e.g. lack of privacy and complex legislation making decision-making more challenging).
CONCLUSIONS: Barriers and facilitators found in this study can lead to recommendations, some simpler to implement than others, to aid the complex end-of-life decision making process. Recommendations include establishing regular multidisciplinary meetings to include all healthcare providers and reduce unnecessary uncertainty, routinely implementing ACP in severely ill neonates to make important decisions beforehand, creating privacy for bad-news conversations with parents and reviewing the complex legal framework of perinatal end-of-life decision-making.
BACKGROUND: ALS is an incurable neurodegenerative disorder, with the recommendation that symptom management and palliative care start immediately or soon after diagnosis. However, little is known about healthcare utilization at the end of life in this patient group.
AIM: To describe healthcare utilization at the end of life in patients who died from ALS.
DESIGN: We performed a retrospective cohort study using population-level administrative databases. The description of healthcare utilization was based on (1) validated quality indicators for end-of-life care, and (2) the European Federation of Neurological Societies guidelines on the clinical management of ALS.
SETTING: We included all people who died from ALS in Belgium between 2010 and 2015 (using ICD-10 code G12.2).
RESULTS: 1636 people died from ALS in Belgium between 2010 and 2015. The mean age at death was 71 years (SD11.3), and 56% were men. Specialized palliative care was used by 44% at some point in the last two years of life. In the last month of life, 13% received tube feeding, 48% received diagnostic testing, 41% were admitted to a hospital, and 25% were admitted to an emergency department. Medications were used mainly to treat pain (43%), insomnia and fatigue (33%) and thrombosis (32%); 39% used riluzole. Non-invasive ventilation was used by 18%. 39% died at home.
CONCLUSION: Administrative data provide a valuable source to describe healthcare utilization in small populations such as ALS, but more clinical evidence is needed on the advantages and disadvantages initiating or terminating treatments at the end of life.
BACKGROUND: Some people experience exceptionally severe bereavement grief, and this level of post-death grief could potentially be the result of a low quality dying process.
AIMS: A pilot study was conducted to determine if a relationship exists between perceived death quality and bereavement grief intensity.
METHODS: A questionnaire was developed and posted online for data on bereavement grief intensity, perceived death quality, and decedent and bereaved person characteristics. Data from 151 Canadian volunteers were analysed using bi-variate and multiple linear regression tests.
FINDINGS: Half had high levels of grief, and over half rated the death as more bad than good. Perceived death quality and post-death grief intensity were close to being negatively correlated.
CONCLUSION: These findings indicate research is needed to explore possible connections between bereavement grief and the survivor's perceptions of whether a good or bad death took place. In the meantime, it is important for palliative care nurses to think of the quality of the dying process as being potentially very impactful on the people who will be left to grieve that death.
OBJECTIVES: To describe and compare euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (EAS) practice in Flanders, Belgium (BE), the Netherlands (NL) and Switzerland (CH).
METHODS: Mortality follow-back surveys among attending physicians of a random sample of death certificates.
RESULTS: We studied 349 EAS deaths in BE (4.6% of all deaths), 851 in NL (4.6% of all deaths) and 65 in CH (1.4% of all deaths). People who died by EAS were mostly aged 65 or older (BE: 81%, NL: 77% and CH: 71%) and were mostly diagnosed with cancer (BE: 57% and NL: 66%). Home was the most common place of death in NL (79%), while in BE and CH, more variation was found regarding to place of death. The decision to perform EAS was more frequently discussed with a colleague physician in BE (93%) and NL (90%) than in CH (60%).
CONCLUSIONS: EAS practice characteristics vary considerably in the studied countries with legal EAS. In addition to the legal context, cultural factors as well as the manner in which legislation is implemented play a role in how EAS legislation translates into practice.
BACKGROUND: Seriously ill children suffer from numerous symptoms at the end of their lives, including pain, anxiety, and restricted communication. There are currently no comprehensive overviews of which health interventions have proven benefits and which have proven detrimental effects on the quality of life of children in an end-of-life context. In order to identify potential quality indicators to eventually improve care, a systematic review of available evidence is needed. The aim of the current systematic review will be to make an overview of the influence of health interventions on associated outcomes related to quality of life at the end of life in seriously ill children.
METHODS: A systematic search will be conducted in MEDLINE, Embase, CENTRAL, CINAHL, and Web of Science. We will include quantitative empirical designs looking into the influence of a health intervention on (proxies of) quality of life at the end of life in seriously ill children. Three independent authors will review titles and abstracts and screen full texts against eligibility criteria. One reviewer will carry out full data extraction and quality assessment, and a 20% random sample will be extracted and assessed by two independent reviewers. We will use the QualSyst Tool for assessment of the quality of the included studies (QualSyst Tool) for quality assessment; overall strength of the body of evidence will be assessed using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) approach. An overview table of health interventions will be discussed through narrative synthesis. Should sufficient homogeneous publications arise, we will perform meta-analyses with a random-effects model. Our protocol adheres to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Protocols (PRISMA-P) checklist for study protocols.
DISCUSSION: As part of a larger project, we will use the results of this review to identify a first set of quality indicators for the care for children at the end of life. Reviewing the current span of evidence and identifying research gaps will uncover future research priorities into the care for children at the end of life.
OBJECTIVES: To evaluate: (1) to what extent family carers of people supported by specialised palliative care services felt they had been provided with information, support and aftercare and (2) how this varied by type of palliative care service, length of enrolment and characteristics of deceased.
METHODS: A cross-sectional postal survey was conducted using a structured questionnaire with nine items on information, support and aftercare provided by specialised palliative care services to family carers. Flemish family carers of people who had made use of specialised palliative care services at home or in hospital were contacted.
RESULTS: Of all primary family carers (response rate of 53.5% resulting in n=1504), 77.7% indicated they were asked frequently by professionals how they were feeling. Around 75% indicated they had been informed about specific end-of-life topics and around 90% felt sufficiently supported before and immediately after the death. Family carers of people who had died in a palliative care unit, compared with other types of specialised palliative care services, indicated having received more information, support and aftercare.
CONCLUSIONS: Family carers evaluate the professional assistance provided more positively when death occurred in a palliative care unit. Policy changes might be needed to reach the same level of care across all specialised palliative care services.
Context: Governments intend to meet resource constraints in professional palliative care by stimulating informal care, including volunteerism. However, little is known about current volunteer-professional collaboration. Such insights are relevant for future policy development regarding volunteer efficiency, quality of care and the capacity of volunteer care to support healthcare services and professionals.
Objectives: To explore what constitutes volunteer-professional collaboration around palliative care.
Methods: A qualitative study was conducted using semi-structured focus groups with volunteers, nurses, psychologists and family physicians and semi-structured interviews with people with serious illnesses and with family carers. Participants were recruited from hospital, home-care, day-care and live-in services in Flanders, Belgium. Interviews and focus groups were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed employing a phenomenological approach. Two researchers coded independently in NVIVO 11 and reached a definitive coding scheme by comparing their resulting conceptual schemes.
Results: Seventy-nine people participated in the study. Volunteers collaborate mostly with nurses, less with psychologists but not with physicians. Volunteer-professional collaboration entails mutual information-sharing regarding patient conditions and coordination of care provision, while nurses and psychologists provide emotional and functional support for volunteers. Lack of access to nurses, of leadership and of patient-information sharing guidelines were the most prominent barriers to collaboration.
Conclusion: Volunteers are in the front line of palliative care provision and therefore collaborate intensely with nurses, particularly in dedicated palliative care services. However, collaboration with other professionals is limited. The presence and availability of nurses was found to be crucial for volunteers, both for support and to achieve integration through collaboration.
The increasing prevalence of euthanasia in Belgium has been linked to changing attitudes. Using National health survey data (N = 9651), we investigated Belgian adults’ intention to ask a physician for euthanasia or continuous deep sedation in the hypothetical scenario of a terminal illness and examined its connection to sociodemographic and health characteristics. Respectively, 38.3 and 25.8% could envisage asking for euthanasia and continuous deep sedation. Those with very bad to fair subjective health and with depression more likely had an intention to ask for euthanasia, which suggests need for attention in the evaluation of requests from specific patient groups.
CONTEXT: The need for increased use and earlier initiation of palliative home care has been advocated by several international organizations.
OBJECTIVES: To investigate time trends in the use and timing of initiating palliative home care support (PHCS).
METHODS: Observational study using routinely collected population-level databases linked with health claims data for the entire population living at home that died from diseases indicative of palliative care needs in Belgium between 2010 and 2015 (n=230,704). Trends and trends by cause of death and age were measured through changes over time in prevalence of use of PHCS. Rates were standardized for age, sex and cause of death distribution in 2010. The median number of days before death when PHCS was initiated was calculated for each year.
RESULTS: Uptake of PHCS increased from 31.7% to 34.9% between 2010 and 2015. Trends were similar in size for all groups, except for people who died from dementia (smallest increase with 1.9 percent-point). The timing of initiating PHCS advanced from 41 days to 46 days before death, with the smallest increase observed among people who died from dementia (+2.5 days). The proportion of people receiving PHCS only in the last week of life changed from 15.3% to 13.9%.
CONCLUSION: This population-level study found a slight trend towards more and earlier initiation of PHCS between 2010 and 2015. However, uptake of PHCS remained below estimated needs in the population and the proportion of people receiving PHCS very late in life remained stable over time.
BACKGROUND: Many countries developed supportive measures for palliative home care, such as financial incentives or multidisciplinary palliative home care teams. For policy makers, it is important to evaluate the use of these national palliative home care supportive measures on a population level.
METHODS AND FINDINGS: Using routinely-collected data on all deaths in Belgium in 2012 (n = 107,847) we measured the use of four statutory supportive measures, specifically intended for patients who have obtained the legal palliative status, and three non-statutory supportive measures. Factors associated with uptake were analysed using multivariable logistic regression. Of all deaths of adult home-dwelling persons in Belgium (n = 87,007), 17.9 percent used at least one statutory supportive measure and 51.5 percent used at least one non-statutory supportive measure. In those who died of an illness indicative of palliative care needs 33.1 percent used at least one statutory supportive measure and 62.2 percent used at least one non-statutory supportive measure. Younger people and persons dying from cancer were more likely to use a statutory policy measure. Older people and persons dying from COPD were most likely to use a non-statutory policy measure. Women, non-single people, and those living in less urbanised areas were most likely to use any supportive measure.
CONCLUSIONS: Statutory supportive measures for palliative home care are underused, even in a subpopulation of persons with potential palliative care needs. Policy makers should stimulate an equitable uptake, and reducing the observed inequalities is an important focus for health care policy.
Objectives: To evaluate the impact of palliative home care support on the quality of care and costs in the last 14 days of life.
Design: Matched cohort study using linked administrative databases.
Setting: All people who died in Belgium in 2012 (n=107 847).
Participants: 8837 people who received palliative home care support in the last 720 to 15 days of life matched 1:1 by propensity score to 8837 people who received usual care.
Intervention: Receiving the allowance for palliative home patients, multidisciplinary palliative home care team visit or palliative nurse or physiotherapist visit at home.
Main outcome measures: Home death, number of family physician contacts, number of primary caregiver contacts, hospital death, hospital admission, intensive care unit (ICU) admission, emergency department (ED) admission, diagnostic testing, blood transfusion and surgery. Total inpatient and outpatient costs. All outcomes were measured in the last 14 days of life.
Results: In the unmatched cohort, 11 149 (13.5%) people received palliative home care support in the last 720 to 15 days of life. After matching, those using palliative home care support had, compared with those who did not, more family physician contacts (mean 3.1 [SD=6.5] vs 0.8 [SD=1.2]), more chance of home death (56.2%vs13.8%; relative risk [RR]=4.08, 95% CI 3.86 to 4.31), lower risk of hospital admission (27.4%vs60.8%; RR=0.45, 95% CI 0.43 to 0.46), ICU admission (18.3%vs40.4%; RR=0.45, 95% CI 0.43 to 0.48) or ED admission (15.2%vs28.1%; RR=0.54, 95% CI 0.51 to 0.57). Mean total costs of care were lower for those using palliative home care support (€3081 [95% CI €3025 to €3136] vs €4698 [95% CI €4610 to €4787]; incremental cost: -€1617 [p<0.001]).
Conclusions: Palliative home care support use positively impacts quality of care and reduces total costs of care at the end of life in Belgium. Policy makers and healthcare practitioners should increasingly focus on communicating the existing options for palliative home care support to patients and their caregivers.