BioMed Central Ltd.
School of Nursing and Midwifery
Background: There is limited information about health care utilisation at the end of life for people in Australia. We describe acute hospital-based services utilisation during the last year of life for all adults (aged 18+ years) who died in a 12-month period in Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales (NSW). Methods: Linked administrative health data were analysed for all adults who died in NSW in 2007 (the most recent year for which cause of death information was available for linkage for this study). The data comprised linked death records (2007), hospital admissions and emergency department (ED) presentations (2006–2007) and cancer registrations (1994–2007). Measures of hospital-based service utilisation during the last year of life included: number and length of hospital episodes, ED presentations, admission to an intensive care unit (ICU), palliative-related admissions and place of death. Factors associated with these measures were examined using multivariable logistic regression. Results: Of the 45,749 adult decedents, 82 % were admitted to hospital during their last year of life: 24 % had >3 care episodes (median 2); 35 % stayed a total of >30 days in hospital (median 17); 42 % were admitted to 2 or more different hospitals. Twelve percent of decedents spent time in an ICU with median 3 days. In the metropolitan area, 80 % of decedents presented to an ED and 18 % had >3 presentations. Overall 55 % died in a hospital or inpatient hospice. Although we could not quantify the extent and type of palliative care, 24 % had mention of “palliative care” in their records. The very elderly and those dying from diseases of the circulatory system or living in the least disadvantaged areas generally had lower hospital service use. Conclusions: These population-wide health data collections give a highly informative description of NSWhospital-based end-of-life service utilisation. Use of hospital-based services during the last year of life was common, with substantial variation across sociodemographic groups, especially defined by age, cause of death and socioeconomic classification of the decedents’ place of residence. Further research is now needed to identify the contributors to these findings. Gaps in data collection were identified - particularly for palliative care and patient-reported outcomes. Addressing these gaps should facilitate improved monitoring and assessment of service use and care.
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