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Association between palliative care and death at home in adults with heart failure

Quinn KL, Hsu AT, Smith G, Stall N, Detsky AS, Kavalieratos D, Lee DS, Bell CM, Tanuseputro P. J Am Heart Assoc. 2020; 9(5):e013844. Epub 2020 Feb 19. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1161/JAHA.119.013844


Background — Palliative care is associated with improved symptom control and quality of life in people with heart failure. There is conflicting evidence as to whether it is associated with a greater likelihood of death at home in this population. The objective of this study was to describe the delivery of newly initiated palliative care services in adults who die with heart failure and measure the association between receipt of palliative care and death at home compared with those who did not receive palliative care.

Methods and Results — We performed a population‐based cohort study using linked health administrative data in Ontario, Canada of 74 986 community‐dwelling adults with heart failure who died between 2010 and 2015. Seventy‐five percent of community‐dwelling adults with heart failure died in a hospital. Patients who received any palliative care were twice as likely to die at home compared with those who did not receive it (adjusted odds ratio 2.12 [95% CI, 2.03–2.20]; P<0.01). Delivery of home‐based palliative care had a higher association with death at home (adjusted odds ratio 11.88 [95% CI, 9.34–15.11]; P<0.01), as did delivery during transitions of care between inpatient and outpatient care settings (adjusted odds ratio 8.12 [95% CI, 6.41–10.27]; P<0.01). Palliative care was most commonly initiated late in the course of a person's disease (≤30 days before death, 45.2% of subjects) and led by nonspecialist palliative care physicians 61% of the time.

Conclusions — Most adults with heart failure die in a hospital. Providing palliative care near the end‐of‐life was associated with an increased likelihood of dying at home. These findings suggest that scaling existing palliative care programs to increase access may improve end‐of‐life care in people dying with chronic noncancer illness.

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