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JAMA Netw Open. 2019 May 3;2(5):e192375. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.2375.

Characteristics and Trends Among Patients With Cardiovascular Disease Referred to Palliative Care.

Author information

1
Department of Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina.
2
Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.
3
Duke Clinical Research Institute, Durham, North Carolina.
4
Duke Cancer Institute, Durham, North Carolina.

Abstract

Importance:

Use of palliative care (PC) for patients with cardiovascular disease (CVD) has increased recently. However, it is unknown if patients are receiving earlier referrals to PC.

Objective:

To assess characteristics and trends of patients with CVD referred to PC.

Design, Setting, and Participants:

Cohort study in which analysis of data from the multicenter Quality Data Collection Tool for Palliative Care registry from January 2, 2015, through December 29, 2017, included patients with CVD 18 years or older referred to initial PC consultation who had a documented palliative performance score (PPS) .

Exposures:

Patients with CVD who presented for an initial PC visit.

Main Outcomes and Measures:

The primary outcome was PPS. Secondary outcomes included symptoms and end-of-life documentation.

Results:

Among 1801 patients (mean [SD] age, 77.7 [13.7] years) from 16 sites in the analysis, 875 (48.6%) were women and 1339 (74.3%) were white. A low PPS score (0%-30%), consistent with bedbound status, was recorded for 521 patients (28.9%), with no change through time. The most common moderate to severe symptoms were poor well-being, tiredness, anorexia, and dyspnea. Year of encounter was associated with improved symptoms of pain (odds ratio, 1.25; 95% CI, 1.05-1.50) and with constipation (odds ratio, 1.32; 95% CI, 1.03-1.69). No change through time was noted in other symptoms or end-of-life documentation. Although the proportion of referrals from general medicine increased from 43.2% (167 of 387) in 2015 to 52.9% (410 of 775) in 2017, the proportion of referrals from cardiologists decreased from 16.5% (64 of 387) in 2015 to 10.5% (81 of 775) in 2017. The proportion of patients referred to PC who were black decreased from 11.9% (46 of 387) in 2015 to 6.3% (49 of 775) in 2017. While 69.5% of all patients with CVD (1252 of 1801) had a primary diagnosis of heart failure, the proportion of non-heart failure CVD diagnoses, such as coronary artery disease and valvular heart disease, increased from 25.6% (99 of 387) in 2015 to 30.1% (233 of 775) in 2017.

Conclusions and Relevance:

Patients with CVD demonstrated significant symptom burden, and there was no evidence in the registry of change in the PPSs of patients with CVD referred to PC through time. Cardiologists provided comparatively fewer referrals to PC for patients with CVD, and this proportion decreased through time. The proportion of racial and ethnic minorities referred to PC was small and decreased through time. These findings reinforce the need for cardiologists to be more engaged with PC and consider referring appropriate patients with CVD sooner.

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