The association between phase of illness and resource utilisation-a potential model for demonstrating clinical efficiency?
International journal of palliative nursing
Background: Healthcare efficiency involves demonstrating flexible inter-relationships between resource utilisation and patient need. In palliative care, five phases of patient illness have been identified: stable, unstable, deteriorating, terminal and bereaved. Evaluating the association between phase of illness and nursing activities could demonstrate clinical efficiency. Aim: The aim of this study was to evaluate the association between the phase of illness and the intensity of nursing care in a specialist palliative care unit. Methods: This was a prospective, observational cohort study of consecutive admissions (n=400) to a specialist palliative care unit. Patient phase of illness was documented on admission and daily thereafter. A nursing activity tool was developed, which scored daily nursing interventions (physical, psychological, family care and symptom control). This score was called the nursing total score (NTS) and reflected the intensity of nursing activities. Data were entered into SPSS and descriptive statistics weregenerated. Results: A total of 342 (85%) patients had full data recorded on admission. Stable, unstable, deteriorating and terminal phases were associated with progressively increasing median NTSs on days 1, 2, 3 and 4 (all P<0.01). Phase stabilisation from the unstable to the stable phase during this timeframe resulted in reductions in physical care (p=0.038), symptom management (p=0.007) and near-significant reductions in family support (p=0.06). Conclusion: A significant association was demonstrated between phase of illness and intensity of nursing activities, which were sensitive to phase changes, from unstable to stable. This demonstrates technically efficient resource utilisation and identifies a potential efficiency model for future evaluations of inpatient palliative care.