Caroline Bähler, Andri Signorell, Oliver Reich
Background: Many efforts are undertaken in Switzerland to enable older and/or chronically ill patients to stay home longer at the end-of-life. One of the consequences might be an increased need for hospitalisations at the end-of-life, which goes along with burdensome transitions for patients and higher health care costs for the society.
Aim: We aimed to examine the health care utilisation in the last six months of life, including transitions between health care settings, in a Swiss adult population.
Methods: The study population consisted of 11'310 decedents of 2014 who were insured at the Helsana Group, the leading health insurance in Switzerland. Descriptive statistics were used to analyse the health care utilisation by age group, taking into account individual and regional factors. Zero-inflated Poisson regression model was used to predict the number of transitions.
Results: Mean age was 78.1 in men and 83.8 in women. In the last six months of life, 94.7% of the decedents had at least one consultation; 61.6% were hospitalised at least once, with a mean length of stay of 28.3 days; and nursing home stays were seen in 47.4% of the decedents. Over the same time period, 64.5% were transferred at least once, and 12.9% experienced at least one burdensome transition. Main predictors for transitions were age, sex and chronic conditions. A high density of home care nurses was associated with a decrease, whereas a high density of ambulatory care physicians was associated with an increase in the number of transitions.
Conclusions: Health care utilisation was high in the last six months of life and a considerable number of decedents were being transferred. Advance care planning might prevent patients from numerous and particularly from burdensome transitions.