Palliative care for cancer patients near end of life in acute-care hospitals

Read about how often cancer patients may receive palliative care in the two years before their deaths in acute-care hospitals

Read about how often cancer patients may receive palliative care in the two years before their deaths in acute-care hospitals

This 2019 article in Current Oncology discusses how often and early cancer patients may receive palliative care in the two years before their deaths in acute-care hospitals. Because of the hospital’s important role in caring for patients with advanced cancer, it increasingly needs to offer palliative care and related support services.

Palliative care aims to provide relief from the physical symptoms associated with a life-threatening illness and support for associated psychosocial, spiritual, and cultural needs, all aimed at improving quality of life for patients and families alike.

In 2008, national palliative care coding standards were introduced to help consistently identify and capture palliative inpatients in administrative databases. The designation of palliative care in an acute-care hospital is based on the presence of the clinical code Z51.5 on a patient’s discharge abstract.

The palliative care code is the only data element routinely collected from patient charts that allows palliative care activity to be tracked across Canada.

Understanding how the palliative care code is used can help with system planning and make sure that palliative care is an integral component of cancer care for all patients and families. As well, that understanding can improve data strategies for gathering and evaluating comprehensive information about palliative care and its delivery.

The article presents the following findings:

  • Most cancer patients who die in a hospital received the palliative care code.
  • Many of those patients were identified as palliative only close to death.
  • Of the patients who received the palliative care code before dying, nearly half were identified as palliative less than two months before death.
  • Jurisdictions are inconsistent with the delivery of palliative services.
  • Physicians are missing some patients’ palliative needs.
  • Palliative care is still largely seen as end-of-life care and is not recognized as an integral component of cancer care.

Read the full article Palliative care for cancer patients near end of life in acute-care hospitals across Canada: a look at the inpatient palliative care code.