Does Increasing Home Care Nursing Reduce Emergency Department Visits at the End of Life? A Population-Based Cohort Study of Cancer Decedents

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2016 Feb;51(2):204-12. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2015.10.008. Epub 2015 Oct 26.


Context: Despite being commonplace in health care systems, little research has described home care nursing's effectiveness to reduce acute care use at the end of life.

Objectives: To examine the temporal association between home care nursing rate on emergency department (ED) visit rate in the subsequent week during the last six months of life.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of end-of-life cancer decedents in Ontario, Canada, from 2004 to 2009 by linking administrative databases. We examined the association between home care nursing rate of one week with the ED rate in the subsequent week closer to death, controlling for covariates and repeated measures among decedents. Nursing was dichotomized into standard and end-of-life care intent.

Results: Our cohort included 54,576 decedents who used home care nursing services in the last six months before death, where 85% had an ED visit and 68% received end-of-life home care nursing. Patients receiving end-of-life nursing at any week had a significantly reduced ED rate in the subsequent week of 31% (relative rate [RR] 0.69; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.68, 0.71) compared with standard nursing. In the last month of life, receiving end-of-life nursing and standard nursing rate of more than five hours/week was associated with a decreased ED rate of 41% (RR 0.59, 95% CI 0.58, 0.61) and 32% (RR 0.68, 95% CI 0.66, 0.70), respectively, compared with standard nursing of one hour/week.

Conclusion: Our study showed a temporal association between receiving end-of-life nursing in a given week during the last six months of life, and of more standard nursing in the last month of life, with a reduced ED rate in the subsequent week.

Keywords: End of life; cancer; emergency department use; home care; nursing; palliative care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Databases, Factual
  • Emergency Medical Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Home Health Nursing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Ontario / epidemiology
  • Palliative Care / methods
  • Palliative Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Regression Analysis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Terminal Care / methods*
  • Terminal Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult