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Earlier initiation of community-based palliative care is associated with fewer unplanned hospitalizations and emergency department presentations in the final months of life: a population-based study among cancer decedents

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 17:34 authored by Cameron Wright, Youens, D, Moorin, RE

Context: Although community-based palliative care (CPC) is associated with decreased acute care use in the lead up to death, it is unclear how the timing of CPC initiation affects this association.

Objectives: We aimed to explore the association between timing of CPC initiation and hospital use, over the final one, three, six, and 12 months of life.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective, population-based study in Perth, Western Australia. Linked administrative data including cancer registry, mortality, hospital admissions, emergency department (ED), and CPC records were obtained for cancer decedents from 1 January, 2001 to 31 December, 2011. The exposure was month of CPC initiation; outcomes were unplanned hospitalizations, ED presentations, and associated costs.

Results: Of 28,331 decedents residing in the CPC catchment area, 16,439 (58%) accessed CPC, mostly (64%) in the last three months of life. Initiation of CPC before the last six months of life was associated with a lower mean rate of unplanned hospitalizations in the last six months of life (1.4 vs. 1.7 for initiation within six months of death); associated costs were also lower ($(A2012) 12,976 vs. $13,959, comparing the same groups). However, those initiating CPC earlier did show a trend toward longer time in hospital when admitted, compared to those initiating in the final month of life.

Conclusions: When viewed at a population level, these results argue against temporally restricting access to CPC, as earlier initiation may pay dividends in the final few months of life in terms of fewer unplanned hospitalizations and ED presentations.


Publication title

Journal of Pain and Symptom Management








Tasmanian School of Medicine


Elsevier Science Inc

Place of publication

360 Park Ave South, New York, USA, Ny, 10010-1710

Rights statement

Copyright 2017 American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Public health (excl. specific population health) not elsewhere classified

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