Background: Overcrowded emergency departments (EDs) and the staff within them are often not able to address the complex physical and psychosocial needs of people at the end of life. While some studies have suggested that the ED environment should be adapted and staff trained to address this issue, there are no previous studies which have investigated whether the provision of timely palliative care services could prevent people with palliative care needs from attending EDs.
Objective: This study investigates whether early admission to community-based palliative care reduces ED admissions in the last 90 days of life for patients with cancer.
Methods: The study was a retrospective, cross-sectional study using death registrations and hospital morbidity data for 746 Western Australian adults who died of cancer and where palliative care may have been a viable and appropriate option for care.
Results: In their final 90 days before death, 31.3% of decedents who had early access to palliative care and 52.0% of those who did not have early access to palliative care visited an ED (OR=2.86; 95% CI, 1.91, 4.30). Early admission to community-based palliative care reduces the use of EDs by cancer patients in the 90 days before death.
Conclusions: Proactive care in the form of timely community-based palliative care assists in preventing vulnerable people at the end of life from being exposed to the stressful ED environment and decreases the pressure on EDs.