Introduction and background
Invasive home mechanical ventilation is used for patients with chronic respiratory insufficiency. This elaborate and technology-dependent ventilation is carried out via an artificial airway (tracheal cannula) to the trachea. Exact numbers about the incidence of home mechanical ventilation are not available. Patients with neuromuscular diseases represent a large portion of it.
Specific research questions are formulated and answered concerning the dimensions of medicine/nursing, economics, social, ethical and legal aspects. Beyond the technical aspect of the invasive home, mechanical ventilation, medical questions also deal with the patient’s symptoms and clinical signs as well as the frequency of complications. Economic questions pertain to the composition of costs and the differences to other ways of homecare concerning costs and quality of care. Questions regarding social aspects consider the health-related quality of life of patients and caregivers. Additionally, the ethical aspects connected to the decision of home mechanical ventilation are viewed. Finally, legal aspects of financing invasive home mechanical ventilation are discussed.
Based on a systematic literature search in 2008 in a total of 31 relevant databases current literature is viewed and selected by means of fixed criteria. Randomized controlled studies, systematic reviews and HTA reports (health technology assessment), clinical studies with patient numbers above ten, health-economic evaluations, primary studies with particular cost analyses and quality-of-life studies related to the research questions are included in the analysis.
Results and discussion
Invasive mechanical ventilation may improve symptoms of hypoventilation, as the analysis of the literature shows. An increase in life expectancy is likely, but for ethical reasons it is not confirmed by premium-quality studies. Complications (e. g. pneumonia) are rare. Mobile home ventilators are available for the implementation of the ventilation. Their technical performance however, differs regrettably.
Studies comparing the economic aspects of ventilation in a hospital to outpatient ventilation, describe home ventilation as a more cost-effective alternative to in-patient care in an intensive care unit, however, more expensive in comparison to a noninvasive (via mask) ventilation. Higher expenses arise due to the necessary equipment and the high expenditure of time for the partial 24-hour care of the affected patients through highly qualified personnel. However, none of the studies applies to the German provisionary conditions. The calculated costs strongly depend on national medical fees and wages of caregivers, which barely allows a transmission of the results.
The results of quality-of-life studies are mostly qualitative. The patient’s quality of life using mechanical ventilation is predominantly considered well. Caregivers of ventilated patients report positive as well as negative ratings. Regarding the ethical questions, it was researched which aspects of ventilation implementation will have to be considered.
From a legal point of view the financing of home ventilation, especially invasive mechanical ventilation, requiring specialised technical nursing is regulated in the code of social law (Sozialgesetzbuch V). The absorption of costs is distributed to different insurance carriers, who often, due to cost pressures within the health care system, insurance carriers, who consider others and not themselves as responsible. Therefore in practice, the necessity to enforce a claim of cost absorption often arises in order to exercise the basic right of free choice of location.
Positive effects of the invasive mechanical ventilation (overall survival and symptomatic) are highly probable based on the analysed literature, although with a low level of evidence. An establishment of a home ventilation registry and health care research to ascertain valid data to improve outpatient structures is necessary. Gathering specific German data is needed to adequately depict the national concepts of provision and reimbursement. A differentiation of the cost structure according to the type of chosen outpatient care is currently not possible. There is no existing literature concerning the difference of life quality depending on the chosen outpatient care (homecare, assisted living, or in a nursing home specialised in invasive home ventilation). Further research is required.
For a so called participative decision – made by the patient after intense counselling – an early and honest patient education pro respectively contra invasive mechanical ventilation is needed. Besides the long term survival, the quality of life and individual, social and religious aspects have also to be considered.