Description of a Tertiary Swiss University Hospital Palliative Population Based on the International Classification of Disease (ICD): A Retrospective Pilot Study
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BACKGROUND: The factors for assessing the utilization rate of a palliative care service are various and complex. Several authors have described different methods to address this problem. McNamara and colleagues have proposed criteria to determine "minimal," "mid-range," and "maximal" palliative population estimates. In order to evaluate the utilization of our intrahospital palliative care consult team (PCT), it appeared necessary to better describe and define the population who dies in our institution, a Swiss university hospital. The goal of this pilot study was to determine what percentage of patients who died in our hospital over a 4-month period in 2007 was seen by the palliative care consult team (PCT), using "minimal" and "maximal" population estimates. METHODS: The hospital database was searched for all adult patients who died during that period and the "maximal" and "minimal" populations determined. The PCT's database was searched to identify those patients who had been seen by the PCT. The charts of a random sample of patients who did not initially meet the "minimal" criteria were hand searched. RESULTS: A total of 294 adult deaths were reported: 263 (89%) met the "maximal" criteria and 83 (28%) met the "minimal" criteria initially. The random search of 56 charts of the 180 patients who did not meet the "minimal" criteria revealed that 21 (38%) should have been included in the "minimal" population. The PCT saw 67/263 (25.5%) of the "maximal" palliative patient population and 56/151 (37.1%) of the "minimal" palliative population. CONCLUSION: This study highlights the usefulness of the method proposed by McNamara and colleagues to determine palliative populations. However, it also illustrates an important limitation of the "minimal" estimate and reliance on the accuracy of the cause of death as noted on the death certificate. A strategy to address this limitation is suggested. The "maximal" estimate suggests that the PCT is being underutilized.
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