Specialty palliative care (PC) clinicians are frequently asked to discuss prognosis with patients and their families. When conveying information about prognosis, PC clinicians need also to discuss the likelihood of prolonged hospitalization, cognitive and functional disabilities, and death. As PC moves further and further upstream, it is crucial that PC providers have a broad understanding of curative and palliative treatments for serious diseases and can collaborate in prognostication with specialists. In this article, we present 10 tips for PC clinicians to consider when caring and discussing prognosis for the seriously ill patients along with their caregivers and care teams. This is the second in a three-part series around prognostication in adult and pediatric PC.
CONTEXT: Palliative care (PC) improves outcomes in noncancer illness. We hypothesized the benefit is driven by studies of heart failure (HF) patients exclusively versus studies of other noncancer illnesses. OBJECTIVES: To assess difference in outcomes in trials with HF patients exclusively vs studies of other noncancer chronic illness. METHODS: We performed a meta-analysis of studies that assessed association of PC with hospital admissions, emergency department (ED) visits and advance care planning in noncancer chronic illness and compared studies of HF patients versus those with other noncancer chronic illness. RESULTS: Our analysis included 10 HF studies (n=4,057) and 16 non-HF studies (11 mixed conditions, 3 dementia, 2 COPD, n=10,235). PC led to reduction in hospital admissions in HF studies (OR=0.67 [95% CI=0.48-0.95]) but not in other noncancer illness studies (OR=0.86 [95% CI=0.62-1.21]). PC intervention was nonsignificant for change in ED visits in either HF (OR=0.70 [95% CI=0.38-1.28]) or other noncancer studies (OR=0.86 [95% CI=0.69-1.07]). Increase in advance care planning was noted in both HF (OR=4.29 [95% CI=1.44-12.76]) and other studies (OR=2.67 [95% CI=1.29-5.52]). Nonsignificant reductions in symptom burden were noted for both HF-studies and non-HF studies, though overall there was a significant improvement in symptom burden (weighted mean difference -1.15 [95% CI=-1.65, -0.65]). Similar results were noted when studies of mixed populations were excluded from the non-HF studies. CONCLUSION: PC is particularly effective at reducing potentially unwanted hospital admissions for patients with HF compared to other noncancer illnesses. Our findings should further encourage efforts to increase PC access to HF patients.
BACKGROUND: In a randomized control trial, Palliative Care in Heart Failure (PAL-HF) improved heart failure-related quality of life, though cost-effectiveness remains unknown. The aim of this study was to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of the PAL-HF trial, which provided outpatient palliative care to patients with advanced heart failure. METHODS AND RESULTS: Outcomes for usual care and PAL-HF strategies were compared using a Markov cohort model over 36 months from a payer perspective. The model parameters were informed by PAL-HF trial data and supplemented with meta-analyses and Medicare administrative data. Outcomes included hospitalization, place of death, Medicare expenditures, quality-adjusted life years (QALYs), and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios. Simulated mortality rates were the same for PAL-HF and usual care cohorts, at 89.7% at 36 months. In the base case analysis, the PAL-HF intervention resulted in an incremental gain of 0.03 QALYs and an incremental cost of $964 per patient for an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of $29,041 per QALY. In 1-way sensitivity analyses, an intervention cost of up to $140 per month is cost effective at $50,000 per QALY. Of 1000 simulations, the PC intervention had a 66.1% probability of being cost effective at a $50,000 willingness-to-pay threshold assuming no decrease in hospitalization. In a scenario analysis, PAL-HF decreased payer spending through reductions in noncardiovascular hospitalizations. CONCLUSIONS: These results from this single-center trial are encouraging that palliative care for advanced heart failure is an economically attractive intervention. Confirmation of these findings in larger multicenter trials will be an important part of developing the evidence to support more widespread implementation of the PAL-HF palliative care intervention.
Our analysis from a national registry shows that compared to cancer, cardiovascular disease patients referred to palliative care are a decade older, have worse functional status and clinician-estimated prognosis. Both groups have very high symptom burden, with cardiovascular disease patients experiencing more dyspnea while pain, nausea, and fatigue are more common in cancer.
CONTEXT: Americans express a strong preference for participating in decisions regarding their medical care, yet they are often unable to participate in decision-making regarding their end-of-life care. OBJECTIVE: To examine determinants of end-of-life planning; including, the effect of an individual's ageing and dying process, health status and socio-economic and racial/ethnic background. METHODS: US observational cohort study, using data from the Health and Retirement Study (1992 - 2014) including 37,494 individuals. Random-effects logistic regression analysis was used to examine the relationship between the presence of a living will and a range of individual time-varying characteristics, including time to death, and several time-invariant characteristics. RESULTS: End-of-life planning depends on several patient characteristics and circumstances, with socio-economic and racial/ethnic background having the largest effects. The probability of having a living will rises sharply late in life, as we would expect, and is further modified by the patient's proximity to death. The dying process, exerts a stronger influence on end-of-life planning than does the aging. CONCLUSIONS: Understanding differences that increase end-of-life planning is important to incentivize patients' participation. Advance planning should be encouraged and accessible to people of all ages as it is inevitable for the provision of patient-centered and cost-effective care.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a major source of financial burden and distress, which has 3 main domains: (1) psychological distress; (2) cost-related care non-adherence or medical care deferral, and (3) tradeoffs with basic non-medical needs. We propose 4 ways to reduce financial distress in CVD: (1) policymakers can expand insurance coverage and curtail underinsurance; (2) health systems can limit expenditure on low-benefit, high-cost treatments while developing services for high-risk individuals; (3) physicians can engage in shared-decision-making for high-cost interventions, and (4) community-based initiatives can support patients with system navigation and financial coping. Avenues for research include (1) analysis of how healthcare policies affect financial burden; (2) comparative effectiveness studies examining high and low-cost strategies for CVD management; and (3) studying interventions to reduce financial burden, financial coaching, and community health worker integration.
Morbidity and mortality conferences (MMCs) are a long-held legacy institution in academic medicine that enable medical providers and hospital administrators to learn from systemic and individual errors, thereby leading to improved medical care. Originally, this forum had 1 major role-education. The MMC evolved and a second key role was added: quality improvement. In the wake of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, a second evolution-one that will humanize the MMC-is required. The pandemic emphasizes the need to use MMCs not only as a place to discuss errors but also as a place for medical providers to reflect on lives lost. The authors' review of the literature regarding MMCs indicates that most studies focus on enabling MMCs to become a forum for quality improvement, while none have emphasized the need to humanize MMCs to decrease medical provider burnout and improve patient satisfaction. Permitting clinicians to be human on the job requires restructuring the MMC to provide a space for reflection and, ultimately, defining a new purpose and charge for the MMC. The authors have 3 main recommendations. First, principles of humanism such as compassion, empathy, and respect, in particular, should be incorporated into traditional MMCs. Second, shorter gatherings devoted to giving clinicians the opportunity to focus on their humanity should be arranged. Third, an MMC focused entirely on the human aspects of medical care should be periodically arranged to provide an outlet for storytelling, artistic expression, and reflection. Humanizing the MMC-a core symposium in clinical medicine worldwide-could be the first step in revitalizing the spirit at the heart of medicine, one dedicated to health and healing. This spirit, which has been eroding as the field of medicine becomes increasingly corporate in structure and mission, is as essential during peaceful times in health care as during a pandemic.
Left ventricular assist device (LVAD) implantation in patients with advanced heart failure due to hypertrophic or restrictive cardiomyopathy (HCM/RCM) presents technical and physiologic challenges. We conducted a systematic review of observational studies to evaluate the utilization and clinical outcomes associated with LVAD implantation in patients with HCM/RCM and compared these to patients with dilated or ischemic cardiomyopathy (DCM/ICM). We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Scopus from inception through May 2019 and included appropriate studies describing the use of an LVAD in patients with HCM/RCM. We identified six studies with a total of 2,766 patients with HCM/RCM and advanced heart failure, among whom 338 patients (12.2%) underwent LVAD implantation. In patients listed for transplant, the rate of LVAD implantation was significantly lower in patients with HCM/RCM compared to that in patients with DCM/ICM (4.4% vs. 18.2%, p < 0.001). Adverse clinical outcomes were significantly higher in HCM/RCM than in DCM/ICM, including operative/short-term mortality (14.0% vs. 9.0%), right ventricular failure (50.0% vs. 21.0%), infection (15.5% vs. 11.2%), bleeding (40.2% vs. 12.5%), renal failure (15.0% vs. 5.1%), stroke (5.0% vs. 2.4%), and arrhythmias (18.0% vs. 7.7%) (all p values <0.001).
CONTEXT: Hospice facilities are increasingly preferred as a location of death, but little is known about the characteristics of patients who die in these facilities in the U.S. OBJECTIVES: We sought to examine the trends and factors associated with death in a hospice facility. METHODS: Retrospective cross-sectional study using mortality data for years 2003-2017 for deaths attributed to natural causes in the U.S. RESULTS: The proportion of natural deaths occurring in hospice facilities increased from 0.2% in 2003 to 8.3% in 2017, resulting in nearly 1.7 million deaths during this time frame. Females had increased odds of hospice facility deaths (odds ratio [OR] = 1.04; 95% CI = 1.04, 1.05). Nonwhite race was associated with lower odds of hospice facility death (black [OR = 0.915; 95% CI = 0.890, 0.940]; Native American [OR = 0.559; 95% CI = 0.515, 0.607]; and Asian [OR = 0.655; 95% CI = 0.601, 0.713]). Being married was associated with hospice facility death (OR = 1.06; 95% CI = 1.04, 1.07). Older age was associated with increased odds of hospice facility death (85 and older [OR = 1.40; 95% CI = 1.39, 1.41]). Having at least some college education was associated with increased odds of hospice facility death (OR = 1.13; 95% CI = 1.11, 1.15). Decedents from cardiovascular disease had the lowest odds of hospice facility death (OR = 0.278; 95% CI = 0.274, 0.282). CONCLUSION: Hospice facility deaths increased among all patient groups; however, striking differences exist by age, sex, race, marital status, education level, cause of death, and geography. Factors underlying these disparities should be examined.
BACKGROUND: Maintaining a steady medication supply during a public health crisis is a major health priority. We leveraged a large U.S. pharmacy-claims database to understand the use of evidence-based therapies in heart failure (HF) care during the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. METHODS: We analyzed 27,027,650 individual claims from an all-payer pharmacy-claims database across 56,155 chain, independent and mail-order pharmacies in 14,164 zip codes in 50 states. Prescriptions dispensed (in 2-week intervals) of evidence-based HF therapies in 2020 were indexed to comparable timeframes in 2019. We normalized these year-to-year changes in HF medical therapies relative to those observed with a stable basket of drugs. RESULTS: Fills of losartan, lisinopril, carvedilol, and metoprolol all peaked in the weeks of March 2020 and demonstrated trajectories thereafter that were relatively consistent with the reference set of drugs. Fills of spironolactone (+4%) and eplerenone (+18%) showed modest trends toward increased relative use during 2020. Fills of empagliflozin (+75%), dapagliflozin (+65%) and sacubitril/valsartan (+61%) showed striking longitudinal increases throughout 2020 that deviated substantially from year-to-year trends of the overall basket of drugs. For all 3 therapies, fills of all quantity sizes increased relatively throughout 2020. For both generic and brand-name therapies, prescription fill patterns from mail-order pharmacies increased substantially over expected trends beginning in March 2020 CONCLUSION: Prescription fills of most established generic therapies used in HF care were maintained, whereas those of sacubitril/valsartan and the sodium-glucose cotransporter-2 inhibitors steeply increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. These nationwide pharmacy claims data provide reassurance about therapeutic access, during a public health crisis, to evidence-based medications used in HF care.