BACKGROUND: The Surprise Question (SQ) "would I be surprised if this patient were to die in the next 12 months?" has been suggested to help clinicians, and especially General Practitioners (GPs), identify people who might benefit from palliative care. The prognostic accuracy of this approach is unclear and little is known about how GPs use this tool in practice. Are GPs consistent, individually and as a group? Are there international differences in the use of the tool? Does including the alternative Surprise Question ("Would I be surprised if the patient were still alive after 12 months?") alter the response? What is the impact on the treatment plan in response to the SQ? This study aims to address these questions.
METHODS: An online study will be completed by 600 (100 per country) registered GPs. They will be asked to review 20 hypothetical patient vignettes. For each vignette they will be asked to provide a response to the following four questions: (1) the SQ [Yes/No]; (2) the alternative SQ [Yes/No]; (3) the percentage probability of dying [0% no chance - 100% certain death]; and (4) the proposed treatment plan [multiple choice]. A "surprise threshold" for each participant will be calculated by comparing the responses to the SQ with the probability estimates of death. We will use linear regression to explore any differences in thresholds between countries and other clinician-related factors, such as years of experience. We will describe the actions taken by the clinicians and explore the differences between groups. We will also investigate the relationship between the alternative SQ and the other responses. Participants will receive a certificate of completion and the option to receive feedback on their performance.
DISCUSSION: This study explores the extent to which the SQ is consistently used at an individual, group, and national level. The findings of this study will help to understand the clinical value of using the SQ in routine practice.
BACKGROUND: Lack of health insurance claims (HIC) in the last year of life might indicate suboptimal end-of-life care, but reasons for no HIC are not fully understood because information on causes of death is often missing. We investigated association of no HIC with characteristics of individuals and their place of residence.
METHODS: We analysed HIC of persons who died between 2008 and 2010, which were obtained from six providers of mandatory Swiss health insurance. We probabilistically linked these persons to death certificates to get cause of death information and analysed data using sex-stratified, multivariable logistic regression. Supplementary analyses looked at selected subgroups of persons according to the primary cause of death.
RESULTS: The study population included 113,277 persons (46% males). Among these persons, 1199 (proportion 0.022, 95% CI: 0.021-0.024) males and 803 (0.013, 95% CI: 0.012-0.014) females had no HIC during the last year of life. We found sociodemographic and health differentials in the lack of HIC at the last year of life among these 2002 persons. The likelihood of having no HIC decreased steeply with older age. Those who died of cancer were more likely to have HIC (adjusted odds ratio for males 0.17, 95% CI: 0.13-0.22; females 0.19, 95% CI: 0.12-0.28) whereas those dying of mental and behavioural disorders (AOR males 1.83, 95% CI:1.42-2.37; females 1.65, 95% CI: 1.27-2.14), and males dying of suicide (AOR 2.15, 95% CI: 1.72-2.69) and accidents (AOR 2.41, 95% CI: 1.96-2.97) were more likely to have none. Single, widowed, and divorced persons also were more likely to have no HIC (AORs in range of 1.29-1.80). There was little or no association between the lack of HIC and characteristics of region of residence. Patterns of no HIC differed across main causes of death. Associations with age and civil status differed in particular for persons who died of cancer, suicide, accidents and assaults, and mental and behavioural disorders.
CONCLUSIONS: Particular groups might be more likely to not seek care or not report health insurance costs to insurers. Researchers should be aware of this aspect of health insurance data and account for persons who lack HIC.