Background: It has been demonstrated that most patients in the terminal stages of cancer would benefit from palliative home-care services.
Aim: The aim of this study was to assess the effectiveness of appropriate palliative home-care services in reducing hospital admissions, and to identify factors predicting the likelihood of patients treated at home being hospitalized.
Design: Retrospective cohort study.
Setting/participants: We enrolled all 402 patients listed by the Local Health Authority No. 5, Veneto Region (North-East Italy), as dying of cancer in 2011.
Results: Of the cohort considered, 39.9% patients had been taken into care by a palliative home-care team. Irrespective of age, gender, and type of tumor, patients taken into care by the palliative home-care team were more likely to die at home, less likely to be hospitalized, and spent fewer days in hospital in the last 2 months of their life. Among the patients taken into care by the palliative home-care team, those with hematological cancers and hepatocellular carcinoma were more likely to be hospitalized, and certain symptoms (such as dyspnea and delirium) were predictive of hospitalization.
Conclusions: Our study confirms the effectiveness of palliative home care in enabling patients to spend the final period of their lives at home. The services of a palliative home-care team reduced the consumption of hospital resources. This study also provided evidence of some types of cancer (e.g. hematological cancers and hepatocellular carcinoma) being more likely to require hospitalization, suggesting the need to reconsider the pathways of care for these diseases.
Keywords: Health services research; comparative effectiveness research; epidemiology; home-care service; palliative medicine.