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Physician home visits to rostered patients during their last year of life: a retrospective cohort study


Background — Physician home visits are associated with better health outcomes, yet most patients near the end of life never receive such a visit. Our objectives were to describe the receipt of physician home visits during the last year of life after a referral to home care — an indication that the patient can no longer live independently — and to measure associations between patient characteristics and receipt of a home visit.

Methods — We conducted a retrospective cohort study using linked population-based health administrative databases housed at ICES. We identified adult (aged ≥ 18 yr) decedents in Ontario who died between Mar. 31, 2013, and Mar. 31, 2018, who were receiving primary care and were referred to publicly funded home care services. We described the provision of physician home visits, office visits and telephone management. We used multinomial logistic regression to calculate the odds of receiving home visits from a rostered primary care physician, controlling for referral during the last year of life, age, sex, income quintile, rurality, recent immigrant status, referral by rostered physician, referral during hospital stay, number of chronic conditions and disease trajectory based on the cause of death.

Results — Of the 58 753 decedents referred in their last year of life, 3125 (5.3%) received a home visit from their family physician. Patient characteristics associated with higher odds of receiving home visits compared to office-based or telephone-based care were being female (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 1.28, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.21–1.35), being 85 years of age or older (adjusted OR 2.42, 95% CI 1.80–3.26) and living in a rural area (adjusted OR 1.09, 95% CI 1.00–1.18). Increased odds were associated with home care referrals by the patient’s primary care physician (adjusted OR 1.49, 95% CI 1.39–1.58) and referrals occurring during a hospital stay (adjusted OR 1.20, 95% CI 1.13–1.28).

Interpretation — A small proportion of patients near the end of life received home-based physician care, and patient characteristics did not explain the low visit rates. Future work on system- and provider-level factors may be critical to improve access to home-based end-of-life primary care.



Scott MM, Webber C, Clarke AE, Hafid A, Isenberg SR, Jones A, Hsu AT, Conen K, Downar J, Manuel DG, Howard M, Tanuseputro P. CMAJ Open. 2023; 11(4):E597-606. Epub 2023 Jul 4.

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