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J Palliat Med. 2013 Oct;16(10):1285-9. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2013.0257. Epub 2013 Sep 10.

Unmet quality indicators for metastatic cancer patients admitted to intensive care unit in the last two weeks of life.

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1 Stanford University School of Medicine , Palo Alto, California.



The majority of U.S. cancer patients express the desire to die at home, though most do not, and are often subjected to ineffective therapies near the end of life (EOL). In 2008 the U.K. Department of Health and National Health Care Service implemented a set of 10 quality markers to improve EOL care (EOLC) for seriously ill persons. Data show that this intervention has had a positive impact on patients' EOLC.


The study assessed the quality of EOLC received by terminally ill cancer patients admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) in the last two weeks of life.


A retrospective chart review was done of the electronic medical record (EMR) of 2498 patients admitted to the ICU from January to August 2011. The six U.K. quality indicators pertaining to patients were used to assess quality of EOLC.


The setting was a tertiary academic medical center with 663 beds and 66 adult ICU beds in northern California.


EMR analysis identified 2498 patients admitted to the ICU during the study period--232 died within two weeks of admission. Sixty-nine decedents had metastatic cancer. Of the patients, 58% were male, average age 59.8 years (range 25-91).


Quality indicators were met in a relatively small percentage of patients admitted to the ICU in the last two weeks of life: prognostication 67%, advance care planning 32%, goals of care 42%, caregiver needs 0%, coordination of care across organizational boundaries 7%, and standardized care pathway implementation 58%. Palliative care consultations occurred in 28 patients.


Quality indicators for EOLC were unmet in cancer patients admitted to the ICU in the last two weeks of life. Hospital-wide provider education about the need for early advance care planning with all seriously ill patients has been implemented in an effort to improve quality of care at EOL.

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