Who needs, receives and misses out on palliative and end-of-life care? A population-based study to identify needs and gaps in a regional health service

Publication Name

Australian Health Review


Objective: The aim of this study was to assess the unmet need for palliative and other end-of-life care, as well as the sociodemographic and diagnostic factors associated with suboptimal access, among residents in an Australian region. Methods: A cross-sectional descriptive and analytical study was performed using non-identifiable linked data from four administrative and two clinical datasets. The study population comprised 3175 patients aged ≥15 years who died in hospital in 2016 and 2017. The main outcome measures were the proportion of decedents potentially benefitting from end-of-life care and receiving end-of-life care. Results: An estimated 74.8% of decedents needed palliative or other end-of-life care in the year before death. Approximately 13.3% did not receive any end-of-life care despite its potential benefit. The highest proportions with 'unmet need' were decedents with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (31.0%) and heart failure (26.3%). Adjusting for sociodemographic and diagnostic factors, access was lowest among those aged <65 years (adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 0.44; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.31-0.64) and those with heart failure (aOR 0.58; 95% CI 0.47-0.72). Conclusions: Estimates of need and access provide a sound basis for planning local palliative and end-of-life care services. These methods can be used on an ongoing basis to monitor service delivery.

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