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Eur J Cancer Care (Engl). 2017 Jul;26(4). doi: 10.1111/ecc.12453. Epub 2016 Feb 9.

Days spent in acute care hospitals at the end of life of cancer patients in four Swiss cantons: a retrospective database study (SAKK 89/09).

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Institute of Pharmaceutical Medicine (ECPM), University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland.
Swiss Group for Clinical Cancer Research (SAKK), Bern, Switzerland.
(Formerly) Helsana Group, Dübendorf, Switzerland.
Cancer Registry Ticino, Instituto cantonale di patologia, Locarno, Switzerland.
Cancer Registry Zürich and Zug, University Hospital Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland.
Cancer Registry Valais, Observatoire valaisan de la santé, Sion, Switzerland.
Cancer Registry Basel, Gesundheitsdienste Projekte & Service, Basel, Switzerland.
Institute for Social and Preventative Medicine (ISPM), University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.
Department Oncology, University Hospital Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland.


Number of days spent in acute hospitals (DAH) at the end of life is regarded as an important care quality indicator for cancer patients. We analysed DAH during 90 days prior to death in patients from four Swiss cantons. Claims data from an insurance provider with about 20% market share and patient record review identified 2086 patients as dying of cancer. We calculated total DAH per patient. Multivariable generalised linear modelling served to evaluate potential explanatory variables. Mean DAH was 26 days. In the multivariable model, using complementary and alternative medicine (DAH = 33.9; +8.8 days compared to non-users) and canton of residence (for patient receiving anti-cancer therapy, Zürich DAH = 22.8 versus Basel DAH = 31.4; for other patients, Valais DAH = 22.7 versus Ticino DAH = 33.7) had the strongest influence. Age at death and days spent in other institutions were additional significant predictors. DAH during the last 90 days of life of cancer patients from four Swiss cantons is high compared to most other countries. Several factors influence DAH. Resulting differences are likely to have financial impact, as DAH is a major cost driver for end-of-life care. Whether they are supply- or demand-driven and whether patients would prefer fewer days in hospital remains to be established.


cancer; complementary medicine; end of life; health services research; hospitalisation; length of stay

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