Occurrence and timely management of problems requiring prompt intervention among Indigenous compared with non-Indigenous Australian palliative care patients: A multijurisdictional cohort study

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BMJ Open


Objectives Anticipation and prompt relief of symptoms among patients with a life-limiting illness is a core element of palliative care. Indigenous Australians commonly encounter cultural barriers in healthcare that may impair outcomes. The Palliative Care Outcomes Collaboration collects patient care data for the purposes of continuous quality improvement and benchmarking, with each recorded care episode divided into phases that reflect a patient's condition. We aimed to investigate differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous patients in the occurrence and duration of â € unstable' phases (which indicate unanticipated deterioration in a patient's condition or circumstances), and determine attainment of the relevant benchmark (resolution of unstable phases in ≤3 days in 90% of cases) for both groups. Design Cohort study. Setting Australia-wide hospital-based and community-based specialist palliative care (1 January 2010 to 30 June 2015). Participants 139 556 (1502 Indigenous and 138 054 non-Indigenous) adult patients. Outcome measures Indigenous and non-Indigenous patients were compared on (1) the risk of a phase being categorised as unstable, (2) the duration of unstable phases, and (3) the risk of unstable phases being prolonged (>3 days). Crude and adjusted estimates were produced from three-level robust Poisson regression and complementary log-log discrete time survival models. Results Unstable phases occurred with similar frequency overall among Indigenous and non-Indigenous patients (adjusted relative risks 1.06; 95% CI 1.00 to 1.11; not significant after correction for multiple comparisons). The duration and risk of prolongation of unstable phases were similar in both patient groups, with no significant differences evident among subgroups. The benchmark was not met for either Indigenous or non-Indigenous patients (unstable phase duration >3 days in 24.3% vs 25.5%; p=0.398). Conclusions Despite well-documented shortcomings of healthcare for Indigenous Australians, there is no clear evidence of greater occurrence or prolongation of unanticipated problems among Indigenous patients accessing specialist palliative care services in hospital or the community.

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National Health and Medical Research Council



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