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Quality indicators of end-of-life care in patients with cancer: what rate is right?


Purpose — To develop data-driven and achievable benchmark rates for end-of-life quality indicators using administrative data from four provinces in Canada.

Methods — Indicators of end-of-life care were defined and measured using linked administrative data for 33 health regions across British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Nova Scotia. These were emergency department use, intensive care unit admission, physician house calls and home care visits before death, and death in hospital. An empiric benchmark was defined using indicator rates from the top-ranked regions to include the top decile of patients overall. Funnel plots were used to graph each region's age- and sex-adjusted indicator rates along with the overall rate and 95% confidence limits.

Results — Rates varied approximately two- to four-fold across the regions, with physician house calls showing the greatest variation. Benchmark rates based on the top decile performers were emergency department use, 34%; intensive care unit admission, 2%; physician house calls, 34%; home care visits, 63%; and death in hospital, 38%. With the exception of intensive care unit admission, funnel plots demonstrated that overall indicator rates and their confidence limits were uniformly worse than benchmarks even after adjusting for age and sex. Few regions met the benchmark rates.

Conclusion — There is significant variation in end-of-life quality indicators across regions in four provinces in Canada. Using this study's methods—deriving empiric benchmarks and funnel plots—regions can determine their relative performance with greater context that facilitates priority setting and resource deployment. Applying this study's methods can support quality improvement by decreasing variation and striving for a target.



Barbera L, Seow H, Sutradhar R, Chu A, Burge F, Fassbender K, McGrail K, Lawson B, Liu Y, Pataky R, Potapov A. J Oncol Pract. 2015; 11(3):e279-87. Epub 2015 Apr 28.

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