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Intensity of treatment in Swiss cancer patients at the end-of-life

Authors Bähler C, Signorell A, Blozik E, Reich O

Received 9 November 2017

Accepted for publication 19 January 2018

Published 15 March 2018 Volume 2018:10 Pages 481—491


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Professor Lu-Zhe Sun

Caroline Bähler,1 Andri Signorell,1 Eva Blozik,1,2 Oliver Reich1

1Department of Health Sciences, Helsana Insurance Group, Zürich, Switzerland; 2Department of Medicine, University Medical Centre Freiburg, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany

Purpose: Current evidence on the care-delivering process and the intensity of treatment at the end-of-life of cancer patients is limited and remains unclear. Our objective was to examine the care-delivering processes in health care during the last months of life with real-life data of Swiss cancer patients.
Patients and methods:
The study population consisted of adult decedents in 2014 who were insured at Helsana Group. Data on the final cause of death were provided additionally by the Swiss Federal Statistical Office. Of the 10,275 decedents, 2,710 (26.4%) died of cancer. Intensity of treatment and health care utilization (including transitions) at their end-of-life were examined. Intensity measures included the following: last dose of chemotherapy within 14 days of death, a new chemotherapy regimen starting <30 days before death, more than one hospital admission or spending >14 days in hospital in the last month, death in an acute care hospital, more than one emergency visit and ≥1 intensive care unit admission in the last month of life.
Results: In the last 6 months of life, 89.5% of cancer patients had ≥1 transition, with 87.2% being hospitalized. Within 30 days before death, 64.2% of the decedents had ≥1 intensive treatment, whereby 8.9% started a new chemotherapy. In the multinomial logistic regression model, older age, higher density of nursing home beds and home care nurses were associated with a decrease, while living in the Italian- or French-speaking part of Switzerland was associated with an increase in intensive care.
Swiss cancer patients insured by Helsana Group experience a considerable number of transitions and intensive treatments at the end-of-life, whereby treatment intensity declines with increasing age. Among others, increased home care nursing might be helpful to reduce unwarranted treatments and transitions, therefore leading to better care at the end-of-life.

Keywords: cancer, end-of-life care, health care costs, transitions, intensity of treatment, health insurance, regional variation

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