Resource use in the last three months of life by lung cancer patients in southern Ontario

Y. Wang, A. Van Dam, M. Slaven, K. J. Ellis, J. R. Goffin, R. A. Juergens, P. M. Ellis


Background End-of-life cancer care involves multidisciplinary teams working in various settings. Evaluating the quality of care and the feedback from such processes is an important aspect of health care quality improvement. Our retrospective cohort study reviewed health care use by lung cancer patients at end of life, their reasons for visiting the emergency department (ed), and feedback from regional health care professionals.

Methods We assessed 162 Ontario patients with small-cell and relapsed or advanced non-small-cell lung cancer. Demographics, disease characteristics, and resource use were collected, and the consenting caregivers for patients with ed visits were interviewed. Study results were disseminated, and feedback about barriers to care was sought.

Results Median patient age was 69 years; 73% of the group had non-small-cell lung cancer; and 39% and 69% had received chemotherapy and radiation therapy respectively. Median overall survival was 5.6 months. In the last 3 months of life, 93% of the study patients had visited an oncologist, 67% had telephoned their oncology team, 86% had received homecare, and 73% had visited the ed. Death occurred for 55% of the patients in hospital; 23%, at home; and 22%, in hospice. Goals of care had been documented for 68% of the patients. Homecare for longer than 3 months was associated with fewer ed visits (80.3% vs. 62.1%, p = 0.022). Key themes from stakeholders included the need for more resources and for effective communication between care teams.

Conclusions Use of acute-care services and rates of death in an acute-care facility are both high for lung cancer patients approaching end of life. In our study, interprofessional and patient–provider communication, earlier connection to homecare services, and improved access to community care were highlighted as having the potential to lower the need for acute-care resources.


Lung cancer; NSCLC; SCLC; resource use; end of life

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ISSN: 1198-0052 (Print) ISSN: 1718-7729 (Online)