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Short-term mortality and palliative care use after delayed hospital discharge: a population-based retrospective cohort study


Objectives — In Canada, patients whose acute medical issues have been resolved but are awaiting discharge from hospital are designated as alternate level of care (ALC). We investigated short-term mortality and palliative care use following ALC designation in Ontario, Canada.

Methods — We conducted a population-based retrospective cohort study of adult, acute care hospital admissions in Ontario with an ALC designation between January and December 2021. Our follow-up window was until 90 days post-ALC designation or death. Setting of discharge and death was determined using admission and discharge dates from multiple databases. We measured palliative care using physician billings, inpatient palliative care records and palliative home care records. We compared the characteristics of ALC patients by 90-day survival status and compared palliative care use across settings of discharge and death.

Results — We included 54 839 ALC patients with a median age of 80 years. Nearly one-fifth (18.4%) of patients died within 90 days. Patients who died were older, had more comorbid conditions and were more likely to be male. Among those who died, 35.1% were never discharged from hospital and 20.3% were discharged but ultimately died in the hospital. The majority of people who died received palliative care following their ALC designation (68.1%).

Conclusions — A significant proportion of patients experiencing delayed discharge die within 3 months, with the majority dying in hospitals despite being identified as ready to be discharged. Future research should examine the adequacy of palliative care provision for this population.



Jones A, Lapointe-Shaw L, Brown K, Babe G, Hillmer M, Costa A, Stall N, Quinn K. BMJ Support Palliat Care. 2024; Jan 9 [Epub ahead of print].

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