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Inpatient palliative care is associated with the receipt of palliative care in the community after hospital discharge: a retrospective cohort study

Webber C, Isenberg SR, Scott M, Hafid A, Hsu AT, Conen K, Jones A, Clarke A, Downar J, Kadu M, Tanuseputro P, Howard M. J Palliat Med. 2022; 25(6):897-906. Epub 2022 Jan 10. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1089/jpm.2021.0496


Background — For hospitalized patients with palliative care needs, there is little evidence on whether postdischarge outcomes differ if inpatient palliative care was delivered by a palliative care specialist or nonspecialist/generalist.

Objective — To evaluate relationships between inpatient palliative care involvement and physician-delivered palliative care in the community after hospital discharge among individuals with limited life expectancy.

Design — Population-based retrospective cohort study using administrative health data.

Settings/Subjects — Adults with a predicted median survival of six months or less admitted to acute care hospitals in Ontario, Canada, between April 1, 2013, and March 31, 2017, and discharged to the community.

Measurements — Inpatient palliative care involvement was classified as high (e.g., palliative care unit), medium (e.g., palliative care specialist consult), low (e.g., generalist-delivered palliative care), or none. Community palliative care included outpatient and home and clinic visits three weeks postdischarge.

Results — Among 3660 hospitalized adults, 82 (2.2%) received inpatient palliative care with high level of involvement, 462 (12.6%) with medium level of involvement, 525 (14.3%) with low level of involvement, and 2591 (70.8%) had no inpatient palliative care. Patients who received inpatient palliative care were more likely to receive community palliative care after discharge than those who received no inpatient palliative care. These associations were stronger among patients who received high/medium palliative care involvement than patients who received low palliative care involvement.

Conclusions — Inpatient palliative care, including that delivered by generalists, is associated with an increased likelihood of community palliative care after discharge. Increased inpatient generalist palliative care may help support patients' palliative care needs.

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