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1.  Changing Patterns in Place of Cancer Death in England: A Population-Based Study 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(3):e1001410.
Wei Gao and colleagues describe how location of death has changed for patients with cancer in England between 1993 and 2010.
Background
Most patients with cancer prefer to die at home or in a hospice, but hospitals remain the most common place of death (PoD).This study aims to explore the changing time trends of PoD and the associated factors, which are essential for end-of-life care improvement.
Methods and Findings
The study analysed all cancer deaths in England collected by the Office for National Statistics during 1993–2010 (n = 2,281,223). Time trends of age- and gender-standardised proportion of deaths in individual PoDs were evaluated using weighted piecewise linear regression. Variables associated with PoD (home or hospice versus hospital) were determined using proportion ratio (PR) derived from the log-binomial regression, adjusting for clustering effects. Hospital remained the most common PoD throughout the study period (48.0%; 95% CI 47.9%–48.0%), followed by home (24.5%; 95% CI 24.4%–24.5%), and hospice (16.4%; 95% CI 16.3%–16.4%). Home and hospice deaths increased since 2005 (0.87%; 95% CI 0.74%–0.99%/year, 0.24%; 95% CI 0.17%–0.32%/year, respectively, p<0.001), while hospital deaths declined (−1.20%; 95% CI −1.41 to −0.99/year, p<0.001). Patients who died from haematological cancer (PRs 0.46–0.52), who were single, widowed, or divorced (PRs 0.75–0.88), and aged over 75 (PRs 0.81–0.84 for 75–84; 0.66–0.72 for 85+) were less likely to die in home or hospice (p<0.001; reference groups: colorectal cancer, married, age 25–54). There was little improvement in patients with lung cancer of dying in home or hospice (PRs 0.87–0.88). Marital status became the second most important factor associated with PoD, after cancer type. Patients from less deprived areas (higher quintile of the deprivation index) were more likely to die at home or in a hospice than those from more deprived areas (lower quintile of the deprivation index; PRs 1.02–1.12). The analysis is limited by a lack of data on individual patients' preferences for PoD or a clinical indication of the most appropriate PoD.
Conclusions
More efforts are needed to reduce hospital deaths. Health care facilities should be improved and enhanced to support the increased home and hospice deaths. People who are single, widowed, or divorced should be a focus for end-of-life care improvement, along with known at risk groups such as haematological cancer, lung cancer, older age, and deprivation.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Death is the only certain event in our lives. Consequently, end-of-life care is an issue that is relevant to everyone, and everyone hopes for a “good death” (a death that is free from avoidable distress and suffering) for themselves and for their loved ones. Many factors contribute to a good death, including the place of death. When asked, most people say they would rather die at home or in a hospice (a care facility that gives supportive care to people in the final phase of a terminal illness and that focuses on comfort and quality of life rather than on cure) than in a hospital. Importantly, patients who die at home or in a hospice often have a better quality of life than those who die in hospital, and caring for terminally ill patients in the community is less expensive than caring for them in hospital.
Why Was This Study Done?
Many countries have introduced end-of-life care policies that are designed to enable more people to die at home or in hospices. England, for example, implemented its National End of Life Care Programme in 2004. However, to improve end-of-life care services and to enable more people to die in their preferred place, we need to understand how the patterns of place of death and the factors that affect the place of death are changing over time. In this population-based study, the researchers examine the changing pattern of place of death of people with cancer and the factors associated with place of death in England between 1993 and 2010. Cancer is a leading cause of death globally and is responsible for 8 million deaths annually. Deaths from cancer still occur most commonly in hospitals, which are the least preferred place of death for people with cancer; home and hospices are the first and second preferred places of death, respectively, for such people.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used death registration data collected by the Office of National Statistics to identify all the adult cancer deaths in England between 1993 and 2010 (2.28 million deaths) and to determine where these deaths occurred, time trends in place of death, and the factors associated with place of death. Hospital was the commonest place of death throughout the study period—48% of cancer deaths occurred in hospital, 24.5% at home, and 16.4% in hospices. The proportion of home deaths increased after 2005 whereas the proportion of hospital deaths declined. The proportion of deaths in hospices also increased over the study period. The most important factor associated with place of death was cancer site. For example, patients who died from a blood (hematological) cancer were more likely to die in hospital than patients with colorectal cancer throughout the study period although the proportion dying at home or in a hospice increased over time. Being single, widowed, or divorced was associated with a higher likelihood of dying in hospital than being married. Being over 75 was associated with a higher likelihood of dying in hospital than being 25–54 although elderly people were more likely to die at home or in a hospice after 2006 than in earlier periods.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that the hospital is still the commonest place of death for patients with cancer in England. However, the increase in home and hospice deaths since 2005 suggests that the National End of Life Care Programme has enabled more people to die at their preferred place of death. These findings identify cancer site, marital status, and age as the three most important factors associated with place of death for patients with cancer. Because the study is a large-scale, population-based study, these findings are likely to be generalizable to other high-income settings. However, because the study did not include data on individual patient preferences for place of death, these findings should be applied with care to individual patients. Importantly, these findings indicate that more needs to be done to support people with cancer (and other terminal illnesses) who wish to die at home or in a hospice. Moreover, they identify groups of people—single, widowed or divorced individuals, older people, and people with specific types of cancer—who need extra help to ensure that they are able to choose where they die.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001410.
The Cicely Saunders International, a not-for-profit organization, promotes research to improve the care and treatment of all patients with terminal illnesses at home, in hospices and in hospital; its website includes information on end-of-life care and on Cicely Saunders, the founder of the hospice movement in England
This study is part of GUIDE_Care, a project initiated by the Cicely Saunders Institute to investigate patterns in place of death and the factors that affect these patterns
Information on the National End of Life Care Programme is available
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information (including videos of personal experiences) on end-of-life issues for carers, information on end-of-life care for patients with cancer, and an end-of-life care guide for people approaching the end of their life
The US National Cancer Institute has a fact sheet on end-of-life care for people who have cancer and provides information on hospice care and home care for patients with cancer (in English and Spanish)
The not-for-profit organization HealthTalkOnline provides personal stories about living with dying
The NHS National End of Life Intelligence Network (NEoLCIN) provides information on broad issues about end-of-life care
The South West Public Health Observatory (SWPHO) aims to improve the health of the population through producing evidence to inform decision making on health issues at local, regional, and national levels. SWPHO also produces specific end-of-life care resources (e.g., specialised reports, end-of-life care profiles) and disseminates it via the NEoLCIN website
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001410
PMCID: PMC3608543  PMID: 23555201
2.  Place and Cause of Death in Centenarians: A Population-Based Observational Study in England, 2001 to 2010 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(6):e1001653.
Catherine J. Evans and colleagues studied how many and where centenarians in England die, their causes of death, and how these measures have changed from 2001 to 2010.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Centenarians are a rapidly growing demographic group worldwide, yet their health and social care needs are seldom considered. This study aims to examine trends in place of death and associations for centenarians in England over 10 years to consider policy implications of extreme longevity.
Methods and Findings
This is a population-based observational study using death registration data linked with area-level indices of multiple deprivations for people aged ≥100 years who died 2001 to 2010 in England, compared with those dying at ages 80-99. We used linear regression to examine the time trends in number of deaths and place of death, and Poisson regression to evaluate factors associated with centenarians’ place of death. The cohort totalled 35,867 people with a median age at death of 101 years (range: 100–115 years). Centenarian deaths increased 56% (95% CI 53.8%–57.4%) in 10 years. Most died in a care home with (26.7%, 95% CI 26.3%–27.2%) or without nursing (34.5%, 95% CI 34.0%–35.0%) or in hospital (27.2%, 95% CI 26.7%–27.6%). The proportion of deaths in nursing homes decreased over 10 years (−0.36% annually, 95% CI −0.63% to −0.09%, p = 0.014), while hospital deaths changed little (0.25% annually, 95% CI −0.06% to 0.57%, p = 0.09). Dying with frailty was common with “old age” stated in 75.6% of death certifications. Centenarians were more likely to die of pneumonia (e.g., 17.7% [95% CI 17.3%–18.1%] versus 6.0% [5.9%–6.0%] for those aged 80–84 years) and old age/frailty (28.1% [27.6%–28.5%] versus 0.9% [0.9%–0.9%] for those aged 80–84 years) and less likely to die of cancer (4.4% [4.2%–4.6%] versus 24.5% [24.6%–25.4%] for those aged 80–84 years) and ischemic heart disease (8.6% [8.3%–8.9%] versus 19.0% [18.9%–19.0%] for those aged 80–84 years) than were younger elderly patients. More care home beds available per 1,000 population were associated with fewer deaths in hospital (PR 0.98, 95% CI 0.98–0.99, p<0.001).
Conclusions
Centenarians are more likely to have causes of death certified as pneumonia and frailty and less likely to have causes of death of cancer or ischemic heart disease, compared with younger elderly patients. To reduce reliance on hospital care at the end of life requires recognition of centenarians’ increased likelihood to “acute” decline, notably from pneumonia, and wider provision of anticipatory care to enable people to remain in their usual residence, and increasing care home bed capacity.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors’ Summary
Background
People who live to be more than 100 years old—centenarians—are congratulated and honored in many countries. In the UK, for example, the Queen sends a personal greeting to individuals on their 100th birthday. The number of UK residents who reach this notable milestone is increasing steadily, roughly doubling every 10 years. The latest Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures indicate that 13,350 centenarians were living in the UK in 2012 (20 centenarians per 100,000 people in the population) compared to only 7,740 in 2002. If current trends continue, by 2066 there may be more than half a million centenarians living in the UK. And similar increases in the numbers of centenarians are being seen in many other countries. The exact number of centenarians living worldwide is uncertain but is thought to be around 317,000 and is projected to rise to about 18 million by the end of this century.
Why Was This Study Done?
Traditional blessings often include the wish that the blessing’s recipient lives to be at least 100 years old. However, extreme longevity is associated with increasing frailty—declining physical function, increasing disability, and increasing vulnerability to a poor clinical outcome following, for example, an infection. Consequently, many centenarians require 24-hour per day care in a nursing home or a residential care home. Moreover, although elderly people, including centenarians, generally prefer to die in a home environment rather than a clinical environment, many centenarians end up dying in a hospital. To ensure that centenarians get their preferred end-of-life care, policy makers and clinicians need to know as much as possible about the health and social needs of this specific and unique group of elderly people. In this population-based observational study, the researchers examine trends in the place of death and factors associated with the place of death among centenarians in England over a 10-year period.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers extracted information about the place and cause of death of centenarians in England between 2001 and 2010 from the ONS death registration database, linked these data with area level information on deprivation and care-home bed capacity, and analyzed the data statistically. Over the 10-year study period, 35,867 centenarians (mainly women, average age 101 years) died in England. The annual number of centenarian deaths increased from 2,823 in 2001 to 4,393 in 2010. Overall, three-quarters of centenarian death certificates stated “old age” as the cause of death. About a quarter of centenarians died in the hospital, a quarter died in a nursing home, and a third died in a care home without nursing; only one in ten centenarians died at home. The proportion of deaths in a nursing home increased slightly over the study period but there was little change in the number of hospital deaths. Compared with younger age groups (80–84 year olds), centenarians were more likely to die from pneumonia and “old age” and less likely to die from cancer and heart disease. Among centenarians, dying in the hospital was more likely to be reported to be associated with pneumonia or heart disease than with dementia; death in the hospital was also associated with having four or more contributing causes of death and with living in a deprived area. Finally, living in an area with a higher care-home bed capacity was associated with a lower risk of dying in the hospital.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that many centenarians have outlived death from the chronic diseases that are the common causes of death among younger groups of elderly people and that dying in the hospital is often associated with pneumonia. Overall, these findings suggest that centenarians are a group of people living with a risk of death from increasing frailty that is exacerbated by acute lung infection. The accuracy of these findings is likely to be affected by the quality of UK death certification data. Although this is generally high, the strength of some of the reported associations may be affected, for example, by the tendency of clinicians to record the cause of death in the very elderly as “old age” to provide some comfort to surviving relatives. Importantly, however, these findings suggest that care-home capacity and the provision of anticipatory care should be increased in England (and possibly in other countries) to ensure that more of the growing number of centenarians can end their long lives outside hospital.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001653.
The US National Institute on Aging provides information about healthy aging, including information on longevity (in English and Spanish)
The National End of Life Care Intelligence Network, England is a government organization that gathers data on care provided to adults approaching the end of life to improve service quality and productivity
The Worldwide Palliative Care Alliance promotes universal access to affordable palliative care through the support of regional and national palliative care organizations
The non-for-profit organization AgeUK provides information about all aspects of aging
Wikipedia has a page on centenarians (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The International Longevity Centre-UK is an independent, non-partisan think tank dedicated to addressing issues of longevity, ageing and population; its “Living Beyond 100” report examines the research base on centenarians and calls for policy to reflect the ongoing UK increase in extreme longevity
This study is part of GUIDE_Care, a project initiated by the Cicely Saunders Institute to investigate patterns in place of death and the factors that affect these patterns
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001653
PMCID: PMC4043499  PMID: 24892645
3.  Variations in the quality and costs of end-of-life care, preferences and palliative outcomes for cancer patients by place of death: the QUALYCARE study 
BMC Cancer  2010;10:400.
Background
Emerging trends and new policies suggest that more cancer patients might die at home in the future. However, not all have equal chances of achieving this. Furthermore, there is lack of evidence to support that those who die at home experience better care and a better death than those who die as inpatients. The QUALYCARE study aims to examine variations in the quality and costs of end-of-life care, preferences and palliative outcomes associated with dying at home or in an institution for cancer patients.
Methods/Design
Mortality followback survey (with a nested case-control study of home vs. hospital deaths) conducted with bereaved relatives of cancer patients in four Primary Care Trusts in London. Potential participants are identified from death registrations and approached by the Office for National Statistics in complete confidence. Data are collected via a postal questionnaire to identify the informal and formal care received in the three months before death and the associated costs, relatives' satisfaction with care, and palliative outcomes for the patients and their relatives. A well-established questionnaire to measure relatives' views on the care integrates four brief and robust tools - the Client Service Receipt Inventory, the Palliative Outcome Scale, the EQ-5 D and the Texas Revised Inventory of Grief. Further questions assess patients and relatives' preferences for place of death. The survey aims to include 500 bereaved relatives (140 who experienced a home death, 205 a hospital death, 115 a hospice death and 40 a nursing home death). Bivariate and multivariate analyses will explore differences in place of death and place of end-of-life care, in preferences for place of death, patients' palliative outcomes and relatives' bereavement outcomes, in relation to place of death. Factors influencing death at home and the costs of end-of-life care by place of death will be identified.
Discussion
Collecting data on end-of-life care retrospectively from bereaved relatives has ethical, practical and scientific challenges. QUALYCARE has been carefully designed to address these challenges in a robust and ethically sound population-based survey. By discovering variations in the underlying individual reality of place of death for people dying from cancer and their families, this study will advance our understanding of end-of-life care and, we hope, improve care for cancer patients and their families in the future.
Trial registration
National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network Portfolio. UKCRN7041.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-400
PMCID: PMC2919503  PMID: 20678203
4.  Complexity in Non-Pharmacological Caregiving Activities at the End of Life: An International Qualitative Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(2):e1001173.
In a qualitative study reported by Olav Lindqvist and colleagues, the range of nonpharmacological caregiving activities used in the last days of a patient's life are described.
Background
In late-stage palliative cancer care, relief of distress and optimized well-being become primary treatment goals. Great strides have been made in improving and researching pharmacological treatments for symptom relief; however, little systematic knowledge exists about the range of non-pharmacological caregiving activities (NPCAs) staff use in the last days of a patient's life.
Methods and Findings
Within a European Commission Seventh Framework Programme project to optimize research and clinical care in the last days of life for patients with cancer, OPCARE9, we used a free-listing technique to identify the variety of NPCAs performed in the last days of life. Palliative care staff at 16 units in nine countries listed in detail NPCAs they performed over several weeks. In total, 914 statements were analyzed in relation to (a) the character of the statement and (b) the recipient of the NPCA. A substantial portion of NPCAs addressed bodily care and contact with patients and family members, with refraining from bodily care also described as a purposeful caregiving activity. Several forms for communication were described; information and advice was at one end of a continuum, and communicating through nonverbal presence and bodily contact at the other. Rituals surrounding death and dying included not only spiritual/religious issues, but also more subtle existential, legal, and professional rituals. An unexpected and hitherto under-researched area of focus was on creating an aesthetic, safe, and pleasing environment, both at home and in institutional care settings.
Conclusions
Based on these data, we argue that palliative care in the last days of life is multifaceted, with physical, psychological, social, spiritual, and existential care interwoven in caregiving activities. Providing for fundamental human needs close to death appears complex and sophisticated; it is necessary to better distinguish nuances in such caregiving to acknowledge, respect, and further develop end-of-life care.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
End-of-life care is a major public health issue, yet despite the inevitability of death, issues related to death and dying are often taboo, and, if mentioned, are often referred to as “palliative care.” There are detailed definitions of palliative care, but in essence, the purpose of palliative care is to relieve any suffering in patients who are dying from progressive illness and to provide the best possible quality of life for both the patient and his or her family. In order to achieve this aim, both pharmacological and non-pharmacological management is necessary, with the latter taking a central role. Recently, a European Commission Seventh Framework Programme project, OPCARE9, aimed to improve the care of dying patients in Europe and beyond by optimizing research and clinical care for patients with cancer in the last days of their life, especially regarding well-being and comfort as death becomes imminent.
Why Was This Study Done?
There is now a growing literature base in non-pharmacological management at the end of an individual's life, particularly in relation to psychological, ethical, and communication issues as well as family-focused and culturally appropriate care. Despite this progress, there is currently little systematic knowledge in how health workers use such non-pharmacological approaches in their efforts to maximize well-being and comfort in patients experiencing their very last days of life. Therefore, in order to advance knowledge in this important clinical area, in this study the researchers reviewed and identified the variety of non-pharmacological caregiving activities performed by different professionals in the last days and hours of life for patients with cancer (and their families) in palliative care settings in the countries that participated in OPCARE9.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers modified an anthropological approach to collect relevant information in participating European countries—Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK—and Argentina and New Zealand. Staff in palliative care settings generated a list of non-pharmacological caregiving activities after discussion about which interventions and activities they carried out with patients and families during the last days of life. This preliminary list of statements was added to if staff performed a new activity when in contact with patients or the patients' family during the last days of life. The researchers then used computer-assisted qualitative data analysis to code the statements.
Using this methodology, the researchers analyzed 914 statements of caregiving activities from 16 different facilities in nine countries. The greatest number of activities described some type of caregiving for an individual carried out through contact with his or her body, such as attending to diverse bodily needs (such as cleaning and moisturizing) while maintaining comfort and dignity. Listening, talking with, and understanding (particularly between professionals and the family) was the next most frequent activity, followed by creating an esthetical, safe, and pleasing environment for the dying person and his or her family, and necessary “backstage” activities, such as organizing paperwork or care plans. Other common activities included observing and assessing, which were often described as being carried out simultaneously with other interventions; just being present (described as increasingly important close to death); performing rituals surrounding death and dying (usually directed to families); guiding and facilitating (encompassing support in a compassionate manner); and finally, giving oral and written information and advice (usually to families).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that providing for fundamental human needs close to death is complex and sophisticated but ultimately integrated into a common theme of caregiving. This study also identifies a number of areas needing further investigation, such as enhancing the sensory and general environment for the patient and family. Finally, this study suggests that developing a greater level of detail, such as improved terminology for end-of-life care, would enhance appreciation of the nuances and complexity present in non-pharmacological care provision during the last days of life, with potential benefit for clinical practice, teaching, and research.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001173.
The OPCARE9 website details more information about this end-of-life care initiative
The World Health Organization website defines palliative care, and Wikipedia gives more information (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
NHS Choices also provides information about end-of-life care
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001173
PMCID: PMC3279347  PMID: 22347815
5.  Recognising patients who will die in the near future: a nationwide study via the Dutch Sentinel Network of GPs 
The British Journal of General Practice  2011;61(587):e371-e378.
Background
Recognising patients who will die in the near future is important for adequate planning and provision of end-of-life care. GPs can play a key role in this.
Aim
To explore the following questions: How long before death do GPs recognise patients likely to die in the near future? Which patient, illness, and care-related characteristics are related to such recognition? How does recognising death in the near future, before the last week of life, relate to care in during this period?
Design and setting
One-year follow-back study via a surveillance GP network in the Netherlands.
Method
Registration of demographic and care-related characteristics.
Results
Of 252 non-sudden deaths, 70% occurred in the home or care home and 30% in hospital. GP recognition of death in the near future was absent in 30%, and occurred prior to the last month in 15%, within the last month in 19%, and in the last week in 34%. Logistic regression analyses showed cancer and low functional status were positively associated with death in the near future; cancer and discussing palliative care options were positively associated with recognising death in the near future before the last week of life. Recognising death in the near future before patients’ last week of life was associated with fewer hospital deaths, more GP–patient contacts in the last week, more deaths in a preferred place, and more-frequent GP–patient discussions about specific topics in the last 7 days of life.
Conclusion
Recognising death in the near future precedes several aspects of end-of-life care. The proportion in whom death in the near future is never recognised is large, suggesting GPs could be assisted in this process through training and implementation of care protocols that promote timely recognition of the dying phase.
doi:10.3399/bjgp11X578052
PMCID: PMC3103701  PMID: 21801517
death; general practitioner; home care; primary care; recognition of dying phase; terminal care
6.  After you: conversations between patients and healthcare professionals in planning for end of life care 
BMC Palliative Care  2012;11:15.
Background
This study explores with patients, carers and health care professionals if, when and how Advance Care Planning conversations about patients’ preferences for place of care (and death) were facilitated and documented.
Methods
The study adopted an exploratory case study design using qualitative interviews, across five services delivering palliative care to cancer and non-cancer patients within an urban and rural English region. The study recruited 18 cases made up of patients (N = 18; 10 men; 8 women; median age 75); nominated relatives (N = 11; 7 women; 4 men; median age 65) and healthcare professionals (N = 15) caring for the patient. Data collection included: 18 initial interviews (nine separate interviews with patients and 9 joint interviews with patients and relatives) and follow up interviews in 6 cases (involving a total of 5 patients and 5 relatives) within one year of the first interview. Five group interviews were conducted with 15 healthcare professionals; 8 of whom also participated in follow up interviews to review their involvement with patients in our study.
Results
Patients demonstrated varying degrees of reticence, evasion or reluctance to initiate any conversations about end of life care preferences. Most assumed that staff would initiate such conversations, while staff were often hesitant to do so. Staff-identified barriers included the perceived risks of taking away hope and issues of timing. Staff were often guided by cues from the patient or by intuition about when to initiate these discussions.
Conclusions
This study provides insights into the complexities surrounding the initiation of Advance Care Planning involving conversations about end of life care preferences with patients who are identified as having palliative care needs, in particular in relation to the risks inherent in the process of having conversations where mortality must be acknowledged. Future research is needed to examine how to develop interventions to help initiate conversations to develop person centred plans to manage the end of life.
doi:10.1186/1472-684X-11-15
PMCID: PMC3517317  PMID: 22985010
Advance care planning; Palliative care services; Preferred place of care; Qualitative research
7.  Experiences of Living and Dying With COPD 
Executive Summary
In July 2010, the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) began work on a Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) evidentiary framework, an evidence-based review of the literature surrounding treatment strategies for patients with COPD. This project emerged from a request by the Health System Strategy Division of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care that MAS provide them with an evidentiary platform on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of COPD interventions.
After an initial review of health technology assessments and systematic reviews of COPD literature, and consultation with experts, MAS identified the following topics for analysis: vaccinations (influenza and pneumococcal), smoking cessation, multidisciplinary care, pulmonary rehabilitation, long-term oxygen therapy, noninvasive positive pressure ventilation for acute and chronic respiratory failure, hospital-at-home for acute exacerbations of COPD, and telehealth (including telemonitoring and telephone support). Evidence-based analyses were prepared for each of these topics. For each technology, an economic analysis was also completed where appropriate. In addition, a review of the qualitative literature on patient, caregiver, and provider perspectives on living and dying with COPD was conducted, as were reviews of the qualitative literature on each of the technologies included in these analyses.
The Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Mega-Analysis series is made up of the following reports, which can be publicly accessed at the MAS website at: http://www.hqontario.ca/en/mas/mas_ohtas_mn.html.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Evidentiary Framework
Influenza and Pneumococcal Vaccinations for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Smoking Cessation for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Community-Based Multidisciplinary Care for Patients With Stable Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Pulmonary Rehabilitation for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Long-Term Oxygen Therapy for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Noninvasive Positive Pressure Ventilation for Acute Respiratory Failure Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Noninvasive Positive Pressure Ventilation for Chronic Respiratory Failure Patients With Stable Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Hospital-at-Home Programs for Patients With Acute Exacerbations of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Home Telehealth for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Cost-Effectiveness of Interventions for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Using an Ontario Policy Model
Experiences of Living and Dying With COPD: A Systematic Review and Synthesis of the Qualitative Empirical Literature
For more information on the qualitative review, please contact Mita Giacomini at: http://fhs.mcmaster.ca/ceb/faculty_member_giacomini.htm.
For more information on the economic analysis, please visit the PATH website: http://www.path-hta.ca/About-Us/Contact-Us.aspx.
The Toronto Health Economics and Technology Assessment (THETA) collaborative has produced an associated report on patient preference for mechanical ventilation. For more information, please visit the THETA website: http://theta.utoronto.ca/static/contact.
Objective of Analysis
The objective of this analysis was to review empirical qualitative research on the experiences of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), informal caregivers (“carers”), and health care providers—from the point of diagnosis, through daily living and exacerbation episodes, to the end of life.
Clinical Need and Target Population
Qualitative empirical studies (from social sciences, clinical, and related fields) can offer important information about how patients experience their condition. This exploration of the qualitative literature offers insights into patients’ perspectives on COPD, their needs, and how interventions might affect their experiences. The experiences of caregivers are also explored.
Research Question
What do patients with COPD, their informal caregivers (“carers”), and health care providers experience over the course of COPD?
Research Methods
Literature Search
Search Strategy
Literature searches for studies published from January 1, 2000, to November 2010 were performed on November 29, 2010, using OVID MEDLINE; on November 26, 2010, using ISI Web of Science; and on November 28, 2010, using EBSCO Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL). Titles and abstracts were reviewed by a single reviewer and, for those studies meeting the eligibility criteria, full-text articles were obtained. One additional report, highly relevant to the synthesis, appeared in early 2011 during the drafting of this analysis and was included post hoc.
Inclusion Criteria
English-language full reports
studies published between January 1, 2000, and November 2010
primary qualitative empirical research (using any descriptive or interpretive qualitative methodology, including the qualitative component of mixed-methods studies) and secondary syntheses of primary qualitative empirical research
studies addressing any aspect of the experiences of living or dying with COPD from the perspective of persons at risk, patients, health care providers, or informal carers; studies addressing multiple conditions were included if COPD was addressed explicitly
Exclusion Criteria
studies addressing topics other than the experiences of living or dying with COPD from the perspective of persons at risk, patients, health care providers, or informal carers
studies labelled “qualitative” but not using a qualitative descriptive or interpretive methodology (e.g., case studies, experiments, or observational analysis using qualitative categorical variables)
quantitative research (i.e., using statistical hypothesis testing, using primarily quantitative data or analyses, or expressing results in quantitative or statistical terms)
studies that did not pose an empirical research objective or question, or involve the primary or secondary analysis of empirical data
Outcomes of Interest
qualitative descriptions and interpretations (narrative or theoretical) of personal and social experiences of COPD
Summary of Findings
Experiences at Diagnosis
Patients typically seek initial treatment for an acute episode rather than for chronic early symptoms of COPD.
Many patients initially misunderstand terms such as COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or exacerbation.
Patients may not realize that COPD is incurable and fatal; some physicians themselves do not consider early COPD to be a fatal disease.
Smokers may not readily understand or agree with the idea that smoking caused or worsens their COPD. Those who believe there is a causal link may feel regret or shame.
Experiences of Living Day to Day
COPD patients experience alternating good days and bad days. A roller-coaster pattern of ups and downs becomes apparent, and COPD becomes a way of life.
Patients use many means (social, psychological, medical, organizational) to control what they can, and to cope with what they cannot. Economic hardship, comorbidities, language barriers, and low health literacy can make coping more difficult.
Increasing vulnerability and unpredictable setbacks make patients dependent on others for practical assistance, but functional limitations, institutional living or self-consciousness can isolate patients from the people they need.
For smokers, medical advice to quit can conflict with increased desire to smoke as a coping strategy.
Many of the factors that isolate COPD patients from social contact also isolate them from health care.
Experiences of Exacerbations
Patients may not always attribute repeated exacerbations to advancing disease, instead seeing them as temporary setbacks caused by activities, environmental factors, faltering self-management, or infection.
Lack of confidence in community-based services leads some patients to seek hospital admission, but patients also feel vulnerable when hospitalized. They may feel dependent on others for care or traumatized by hospital care routines.
Upon hospital discharge following an exacerbation, patients may face new levels of uncertainty about their illness, prognosis, care providers, and supports.
Experiences of the End of Life
Patients tend to be poorly informed about the long-term prognosis of COPD and what to expect toward the end of life; this lack of understanding impairs quality of life as the disease progresses.
As the end of life approaches, COPD patients face the usual challenges of daily living, but in a context of increasing exacerbations and deepening dependency. Activities and mobility decrease, and life may become confined.
Some clinicians have difficulty identifying the beginning of “the end of life,” given the unpredictable course of COPD. Long-term physician-patient relationships, familiarity and understanding, trust, good communication skills, sensitivity, and secure discussion settings can help facilitate end-of-life discussions.
Divergent meanings and goals of palliative care in COPD lead to confusion about whether such services are the responsibility of home care, primary care, specialty care, or even critical care. Palliative end-of-life care may not be anticipated prior to referral for such care. A palliative care referral can convey the demoralizing message that providers have “given up.”
Experiences of Carers
Carers’ challenges often echo patients’ challenges, and include anxiety, uncertainty about the future, helplessness, powerlessness, depression, difficulties maintaining employment, loss of mobility and freedoms, strained relationships, and growing social isolation.
Carers feel pressured by their many roles, struggling to maintain patience when they feel overwhelmed, and often feeling guilty about not doing enough.
Carers often face their own health problems and may have difficulty sustaining employment.
Synthesis: A Disease Trajectory Reflecting Patient Experiences
The flux of needs in COPD calls for service continuity and flexibility to allow both health care providers and patients to respond to the unpredictable yet increasing demands of the disease over time.
PMCID: PMC3384365  PMID: 23074423
8.  Advance Care Planning and Health Care Preferences of Community-Dwelling Elders: The Framingham Heart Study 
Objectives
To describe self-reported advance care planning, health care preferences, use of advance directives, and health perceptions in a very elderly community-dwelling sample.
Methods
Surviving participants of the original cohort of the Framingham Heart Study who were cognitively intact and attended a routine research exam between February 2004 and October 2005. Participants were queried about discussions about end of life care, preferences for care, documentation of advance directives, and health perceptions.
Results
Among 220 community-dwelling respondents, 67% were women with a mean age of 88 years (range 84-100). Overall 69% discussed their wishes for medical care at the end of life with someone, but only 17% discussed their wishes with a physician or health care provider. Two-thirds had a health care proxy, 55% had a living will, and 41% had both. Most (80%) respondents preferred comfort care over life-extending care, and 71% preferred to die at home; however, substantially fewer respondents said they would rather die than receive specific life-prolonging interventions [chronic ventilator (63%) or feeding tube (64%)]. Many were willing to endure distressing health states, with less than half indicating that they would rather die than live out their life in a great deal of pain (46%) or be confused/forgetful (45%) all of the time.
Conclusions
Although the vast majority of very elderly community-dwellers in this sample appear to prefer comfort measures at the end of life, many said they were willing to endure specific life-prolonging interventions and distressing health states to avoid death. Our results highlight the need for physicians better understand patients’ preferences and goals of care to help them make informed decisions at the end of life.
PMCID: PMC2693192  PMID: 18840800
advance directives; geriatrics; end of life care; patient centered care; decision-making
9.  The Effectiveness of Emergency Obstetric Referral Interventions in Developing Country Settings: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(7):e1001264.
In a systematic review of the literature, Julia Hussein and colleagues seek to determine the effect of referral interventions that enable emergency access to health facilities for pregnant women living in developing countries.
Background
Pregnancy complications can be unpredictable and many women in developing countries cannot access health facilities where life-saving care is available. This study assesses the effects of referral interventions that enable pregnant women to reach health facilities during an emergency, after the decision to seek care is made.
Methods and findings
Selected bibliographic databases were searched with no date or language restrictions. Randomised controlled trials and quasi experimental study designs with a comparison group were included. Outcomes of interest included maternal and neonatal mortality and other intermediate measures such as service utilisation. Two reviewers independently selected, appraised, and extracted articles using predefined fields. Forest plots, tables, and qualitative summaries of study quality, size, and direction of effect were used for analysis.
Nineteen studies were included. In South Asian settings, four studies of organisational interventions in communities that generated funds for transport reduced neonatal deaths, with the largest effect seen in India (odds ratio 0·48 95% CI 0·34–0·68). Three quasi experimental studies from sub-Saharan Africa reported reductions in stillbirths with maternity waiting home interventions, with one statistically significant result (OR 0.56 95% CI 0.32–0.96). Effects of interventions on maternal mortality were unclear. Referral interventions usually improved utilisation of health services but the opposite effect was also documented. The effects of multiple interventions in the studies could not be disentangled. Explanatory mechanisms through which the interventions worked could not be ascertained.
Conclusions
Community mobilisation interventions may reduce neonatal mortality but the contribution of referral components cannot be ascertained. The reduction in stillbirth rates resulting from maternity waiting homes needs further study. Referral interventions can have unexpected adverse effects. To inform the implementation of effective referral interventions, improved monitoring and evaluation practices are necessary, along with studies that develop better understanding of how interventions work.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, about 350,000 women die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications. Almost all of these “maternal” deaths occur in developing countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the maternal mortality ratio (MMR, the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) is 500 and a woman's life-time risk of dying from complications of pregnancy or childbirth is 1 in 39. By contrast, the MMR in industrialized countries is 12 and women have a life-time risk of maternal death of 1 in 4,700. Most maternal deaths are caused by hemorrhage (severe bleeding after childbirth), post-delivery infections, obstructed (difficult) labor, and blood pressure disorders during pregnancy, all of which are preventable or treatable conditions. Unfortunately, it is hard to predict which women will develop pregnancy complications, many complications rapidly become life-threatening and, in developing countries, women often deliver at home, far from emergency obstetric services; obstetrics deals with the care of women and their children during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postnatal period.
Why Was This Study Done?
It should be possible to reduce maternal deaths (and the deaths of babies during pregnancy, childbirth, and early life) in developing countries by ensuring that pregnant women are referred to emergency obstetric services quickly when the need arises. Unfortunately, in such countries referral to emergency obstetric care is beset with problems such as difficult geographical terrain, transport costs, lack of vehicles, and suboptimal location and distribution of health care facilities. In this systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic), the researchers assess the effectiveness of interventions designed to reduce the “phase II delay” in referral to emergency obstetric care in developing countries—the time it takes a woman to reach an appropriate health care facility once a problem has been recognized and the decision has been taken to seek care. Delays in diagnosis and the decision to seek care are phase I delays in referral, whereas delays in receiving care once a women reaches a health care facility are phase III delays.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 19 published studies that described 14 interventions designed to overcome phase II delays in emergency obstetric referral and that met their criteria for inclusion in their systematic review. About half of the interventions were organizational. That is, they were designed to overcome barriers to referral such as costs. Most of the remaining interventions were structural. That is, they involved the provision of, for example, ambulances and maternity waiting homes—placed close to a health care facility where women can stay during late pregnancy. Although seven studies provided data on maternal mortality, none showed a sustained, statistically significant reduction (a reduction unlikely to have occurred by chance) in maternal deaths. Four studies in South Asia in which communities generated funds for transport reduced neonatal deaths (deaths of babies soon after birth), but the only statistically significant effect of this community mobilization intervention was seen in India where neonatal deaths were halved. Three studies from sub-Saharan Africa reported that the introduction of maternity waiting homes reduced stillbirths but this reduction was only significant in one study. Finally, although referral interventions generally improved the utilization of health services, in one study the provision of bicycle ambulances to take women to the hospital reduced the proportion of women delivering in health facilities, probably because women felt that bicycle ambulances drew unwanted attention to them during labor and so preferred to stay at home.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that community mobilization interventions may reduce neonatal mortality and that maternity waiting rooms may reduce stillbirths. Importantly, they also highlight how referral interventions can have unexpected adverse effects. However, because the studies included in this systematic review included multiple interventions designed to reduce delays at several stages of the referral process, it is not possible to disentangle the contribution of each component of the intervention. Moreover, it is impossible at present to determine why (or even if) any of the interventions reduced maternal mortality. Thus, the researchers conclude, improved monitoring of interventions and better evaluation of outcomes is essential to inform the implementation of effective referral interventions, and more studies are needed to improve understanding of how referral interventions work.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001264.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) provides information on maternal mortality, including the WHO/UNICEF./UNFPA/World Bank 2008 country estimates of maternal mortality
The World Health Organization provides information on maternal health, including information about Millennium Development Goal 5, which aims to reduce maternal mortality (in several languages); the Millennium Development Goals, which were agreed by world leaders in 2000, are designed to eradicate extreme poverty worldwide by 2015
Immpact is a global research initiative for the evaluation of safe motherhood intervention strategies
Veil of Tears contains personal stories from Afghanistan about loss in childbirth; the non-governmental health development organization AMREF provides personal stories about maternal health in Africa
Maternal Death: The Avoidable Crisis is a briefing paper published by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in March 2012
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001264
PMCID: PMC3393680  PMID: 22807658
10.  GPs' awareness of patients' preference for place of death 
Background
Being able to die in one's place of choice is an indicator of the quality of end-of-life care. GPs may play a key role in exploring and honouring patients' preferences for place of death.
Aim
To examine how often GPs are informed about patients' preferred place of death, by whom and for which patients, and to study the expressed preferred place of death and how often patients die at their preferred place.
Design of study
One-year nationwide mortality retrospective study.
Setting
Sentinel Network of GPs in Belgium, 2006.
Method
GPs' weekly registration of all deaths (patients aged ≥1 year).
Results
A total of 798 non-sudden deaths were reported. GPs were informed of patients' preferred place of death in 46% of cases. GPs obtained this information directly from patients in 63%. GP awareness was positively associated with patients not being hospitalised in the last 3 months of life (odds ratio [OR] = 3.9; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.8 to 5.6), involvement of informal caregivers (OR = 3.3; 95% CI = 1.8 to 6.1), use of a multidisciplinary palliative care team (OR = 2.5; 95% CI = 1.8 to 3.5), and with presence of more than seven contacts between GP and patient or family in the last 3 months of life (OR = 3.0; 95% CI = 2.2 to 4.3). In instances where GPs were informed, more than half of patients (58%) preferred to die at home. Overall, 80% of patients died at their preferred place.
Conclusion
GPs are often unaware of their patients' preference for place of death. However, if GPs are informed, patients often die at their preferred location. Several healthcare characteristics might contribute to this and to a higher level of GP awareness.
doi:10.3399/bjgp09X454124
PMCID: PMC2734354  PMID: 19682405
advance care planning; end-of-life care; general practitioner; palliative care; preferred place of death; terminal care
11.  Evaluation of a hospice rapid response community service: a controlled evaluation 
BMC Palliative Care  2012;11:11.
Background
While most people faced with a terminal illness would prefer to die at home, less than a third in England are enabled to do so with many dying in National Health Service hospitals. Patients are more likely to die at home if their carers receive professional support. Hospice rapid response teams, which provide specialist palliative care at home on a 24/7 on-call basis, are proposed as an effective way to help terminally ill patients die in their preferred place, usually at home. However, the effectiveness of rapid response teams has not been rigorously evaluated in terms of patient, carer and cost outcomes.
Methods/Design
The study is a pragmatic quasi-experimental controlled trial. The primary outcome for the quantitative evaluation for patients is dying in their preferred place of death. Carers’ quality of life will be evaluated using postal questionnaires sent at patient intake to the hospice service and eight months later. Carers’ perceptions of care received and the patient’s death will be assessed in one to one interviews at 6 to 8 months post bereavement. Service utilisation costs including the rapid response intervention will be compared to those of usual care.
Discussion
The study will contribute to the development of the evidence base on outcomes for patients and carers and costs of hospice rapid response teams operating in the community.
Trial registration: Current controlled trials ISRCTN32119670.
doi:10.1186/1472-684X-11-11
PMCID: PMC3441320  PMID: 22846107
Rapid response service; Hospice at home; Pragmatic trial; Preferred place of death; Palliative care
12.  Discussions by Elders and Adult Children About End-of-Life Preparation and Preferences 
Preventing Chronic Disease  2007;5(1):A08.
Introduction
In the United States, 73% of deaths occur among people aged 65 years or older. Although most would prefer to die at home after a short illness, most actually die in institutions after prolonged declines. Despite this discrepancy, elders and their adult children often do not discuss end-of-life preferences. Use of advance directives has not been widespread, and people often avoid the subject until a crisis. This project focused on informal family communication about end-of-life preparation and preferences, about which little is known.
Methods
In May 2006, we conducted in-depth exploratory interviews with 15 older adults about their end-of-life preparation and preferences and with 15 younger adults about their parents' end-of-life preparation and preferences. The interview included an item rating the depth of discussion.
Results
Participants in both groups were primarily female and white. Mean age of older adults was 78.6 years (range, 70–88 years). Mean age of younger adults was 53.1 years (range, 42–63 years); mean age of their parents was 82.6 years (range, 68–99 years). Nine older adults reported discussing end-of-life preparation and preferences with their adult children; six had barely discussed the topic at all. Ten younger adults reported having talked with their parents about end-of-life preparation and preferences; five had not discussed it. Barriers to discussions about end-of-life preparation and preferences were fear of death, trust in others to make decisions, family dynamics, and uncertainty about preferences. Facilitators for discussion were acceptance of the reality of death, prior experience with death, religion or spirituality, and a desire to help the family. Successful strategies included casually approaching the topic and writing down end-of-life preparation and preferences.
Conclusion
Knowing the obstacles to and facilitators for discussion can help health care and public health professionals target approaches to encouraging elders and their families to discuss end-of-life preparation and preferences before a crisis.
PMCID: PMC2248775  PMID: 18081997
13.  End-of-Life Decisions: A Cross-National Study of Treatment Preference Discussions and Surrogate Decision-Maker Appointments 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e57965.
Background
Making treatment decisions in anticipation of possible future incapacity is an important part of patient participation in end-of-life decision-making. This study estimates and compares the prevalence of GP-patient end-of-life treatment discussions and patients’ appointment of surrogate decision-makers in Italy, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands and examines associated factors.
Methods
A cross-sectional, retrospective survey was conducted with representative GP networks in four countries. GPs recorded the health and care characteristics in the last three months of life of 4,396 patients who died non-suddenly. Prevalences were estimated and logistic regressions were used to examine between country differences and country-specific associated patient and care factors.
Results
GP-patient discussion of treatment preferences occurred for 10%, 7%, 25% and 47% of Italian, Spanish, Belgian and of Dutch patients respectively. Furthermore, 6%, 5%, 16% and 29% of Italian, Spanish, Belgian and Dutch patients had a surrogate decision-maker. Despite some country-specific differences, previous GP-patient discussion of primary diagnosis, more frequent GP contact, GP provision of palliative care, the importance of palliative care as a treatment aim and place of death were positively associated with preference discussions or surrogate appointments. A diagnosis of dementia was negatively associated with preference discussions and surrogate appointments.
Conclusions
The study revealed a higher prevalence of treatment preference discussions and surrogate appointments in the two northern compared to the two southern European countries. Factors associated with preference discussions and surrogate appointments suggest that delaying diagnosis discussions impedes anticipatory planning, whereas early preference discussions, particularly for dementia patients, and the provision of palliative care encourage participation.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057965
PMCID: PMC3589464  PMID: 23472122
14.  Effect of Removing Direct Payment for Health Care on Utilisation and Health Outcomes in Ghanaian Children: A Randomised Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(1):e1000007.
Background
Delays in accessing care for malaria and other diseases can lead to disease progression, and user fees are a known barrier to accessing health care. Governments are introducing free health care to improve health outcomes. Free health care affects treatment seeking, and it is therefore assumed to lead to improved health outcomes, but there is no direct trial evidence of the impact of removing out-of-pocket payments on health outcomes in developing countries. This trial was designed to test the impact of free health care on health outcomes directly.
Methods and Findings
2,194 households containing 2,592 Ghanaian children under 5 y old were randomised into a prepayment scheme allowing free primary care including drugs, or to a control group whose families paid user fees for health care (normal practice); 165 children whose families had previously paid to enrol in the prepayment scheme formed an observational arm. The primary outcome was moderate anaemia (haemoglobin [Hb] < 8 g/dl); major secondary outcomes were health care utilisation, severe anaemia, and mortality. At baseline the randomised groups were similar. Introducing free primary health care altered the health care seeking behaviour of households; those randomised to the intervention arm used formal health care more and nonformal care less than the control group. Introducing free primary health care did not lead to any measurable difference in any health outcome. The primary outcome of moderate anaemia was detected in 37 (3.1%) children in the control and 36 children (3.2%) in the intervention arm (adjusted odds ratio 1.05, 95% confidence interval 0.66–1.67). There were four deaths in the control and five in the intervention group. Mean Hb concentration, severe anaemia, parasite prevalence, and anthropometric measurements were similar in each group. Families who previously self-enrolled in the prepayment scheme were significantly less poor, had better health measures, and used services more frequently than those in the randomised group.
Conclusions
In the study setting, removing out-of-pocket payments for health care had an impact on health care-seeking behaviour but not on the health outcomes measured.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov (#NCT00146692).
Evelyn Ansah and colleagues report on whether removing user fees has an impact on health care-seeking behavior and health outcomes in households with children in Ghana.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Every year, about 10 million children worldwide die before their fifth birthday. About half these deaths occur in developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Here, 166 children out of every 1,000 die before they are five. A handful of preventable diseases—acute respiratory infections, diarrhea, malaria, measles, and HIV/AIDS—are responsible for most of these deaths. For all these diseases, delays in accessing medical care contribute to the high death rate. In the case of malaria, for example, children are rarely taken to a clinic or hospital (formal health care) when they first develop symptoms, which include fever, chills, and anemia (lack of red blood cells). Instead, they are taken to traditional healers or given home remedies (informal health care). When they are finally taken to a clinic, it is often too late to save their lives. Many factors contribute to this delay in seeking formal health care. Sometimes, health care simply isn't available. In other instances, parents may worry about the quality of the service provided or may not seek formal health care because of their sociocultural beliefs. Finally, many parents cannot afford the travel costs and loss of earnings involved in taking their child to a clinic or the cost of the treatment itself.
Why Was This Study Done?
The financial cost of seeking formal health care is often the major barrier to accessing health care in poor countries. Consequently, the governments of several developing countries have introduced free health care in an effort to improve their nation's health. Such initiatives have increased the use of formal health care in several African countries; the introduction of user fees in Ghana in the early 1980s had the opposite effect. It is generally assumed that an increase in formal health care utilization improves health—but is this true? In this study, the researchers investigate the effect of removing direct payment for health care on health service utilization and health outcomes in Ghanaian children in a randomized controlled trial (a trial in which participants are randomly assigned to an “intervention” group or “control” group and various predefined outcomes are measured).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled nearly 2,600 children under the age of 5 y living in a poor region of Ghana. Half were assigned to the group in which a prepayment scheme (paid for by the trial) provided free primary and basic secondary health care—this was the intervention arm. The rest were assigned to the control group in which families paid for health care. The trial's main outcome was the percentage of children with moderate anemia at the end of the malaria transmission season, an indicator of the effect of the intervention on malaria-related illness. Other outcomes included health care utilization (calculated from household diaries), severe anemia, and death. The researchers report that the children in the intervention arm attended formal health care facilities slightly more often and informal health care providers slightly less often than those in the control arm. About 3% of the children in both groups had moderate anemia at the end of the malaria transmission season. In addition, similar numbers of deaths, cases of severe anemia, fever episodes, and known infections with the malaria parasite were recorded in both groups of children.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that, in this setting, the removal of out-of-pocket payments for health care changed health care-seeking behavior but not health outcomes in children. This lack of a measured effect does not necessarily mean that the provision of free health care has no effect on children's health—it could be that the increase in health care utilization in the intervention arm compared to the control arm was too modest to produce a clear effect on health. Alternatively, in Ghana, the indirect costs of seeking health care may be more important than the direct cost of paying for treatment. Although the findings of this trial may not be generalizable to other countries, they nevertheless raise the possibility that providing free health care might not be the most cost-effective way of improving health in all developing countries. Importantly, they also suggest that changes in health care utilization should not be used in future trials as a proxy measure of improvements in health.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000007.
This research article is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Valéry Ridde and Slim Haddad
The World Health Organization provides information on child health and on global efforts to reduce child mortality, Millennium Development Goal 4; it also provides information about health in Ghana
The United Nations Web site provides further information on all the Millennium Development Goals, which were agreed to by the nations of the world in 2000 with the aim of ending extreme poverty by 2015 (in several languages)
The UK Department for International Development also provides information on the progress that is being made toward reducing child mortality
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000007
PMCID: PMC2613422  PMID: 19127975
15.  Documentation of Advance Care Planning for Community-Dwelling Elders 
Journal of Palliative Medicine  2010;13(7):861-867.
Abstract
Background
Advance planning for end-of-life care has gained acceptance, but actual end-of-life care is often incongruent with patients' previously stated goals. We assessed the flow of advance care planning information from patients to medical records in a community sample of older adults to better understand why advance care planning is not more successful.
Methods
Our study used structured interview and medical record data from community-dwelling older patients in two previous studies: Assessing Care of Vulnerable Elders (ACOVE)-1 (245 patients age ≥65 years and screened for high risk of death/functional decline in 1998–1999) and ACOVE-2 (566 patients age ≥75 who screened positive for falls/mobility disorders, incontinence, and/or dementia in 2002–2003). We compared interview data on patients' preferences, advance directives, and surrogate decision-makers with findings from the medical record.
Results
In ACOVE-1, 38% of surveyed patients had thought about limiting the aggressiveness of medical care; 24% of surveyed patients stated that they had spoken to their doctor about this. The vast majority of patients (88%–93%) preferred to die rather than remain permanently in a coma, on a ventilator, or tube fed. Regardless of patients' specific preferences, 15%–22% of patients had preference information in their medical record. Among patients who reported that they had completed an advance directive and had given it to their health-care provider, 15% (ACOVE-1) and 47% (ACOVE-2) had advance directive information in the medical record. Among patients who had not completed an advance directive but had given surrogate decision-maker information to their provider, 0% (ACOVE-1) and 16% (ACOVE-2) had documentation of a surrogate decision-maker in the medical record.
Conclusions
Community-dwelling elders' preferences for end-of-life care are not consistent with documentation in their medical records. Electronic health records and standardized data collection for end-of-life care could begin to ameliorate this problem.
doi:10.1089/jpm.2009.0341
PMCID: PMC2939845  PMID: 20618087
16.  Uncovering Treatment Burden as a Key Concept for Stroke Care: A Systematic Review of Qualitative Research 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(6):e1001473.
In a systematic review of qualitative research, Katie Gallacher and colleagues examine the evidence related to treatment burden after stroke from the patient perspective.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Patients with chronic disease may experience complicated management plans requiring significant personal investment. This has been termed ‘treatment burden’ and has been associated with unfavourable outcomes. The aim of this systematic review is to examine the qualitative literature on treatment burden in stroke from the patient perspective.
Methods and Findings
The search strategy centred on: stroke, treatment burden, patient experience, and qualitative methods. We searched: Scopus, CINAHL, Embase, Medline, and PsycINFO. We tracked references, footnotes, and citations. Restrictions included: English language, date of publication January 2000 until February 2013. Two reviewers independently carried out the following: paper screening, data extraction, and data analysis. Data were analysed using framework synthesis, as informed by Normalization Process Theory. Sixty-nine papers were included. Treatment burden includes: (1) making sense of stroke management and planning care, (2) interacting with others, (3) enacting management strategies, and (4) reflecting on management. Health care is fragmented, with poor communication between patient and health care providers. Patients report inadequate information provision. Inpatient care is unsatisfactory, with a perceived lack of empathy from professionals and a shortage of stimulating activities on the ward. Discharge services are poorly coordinated, and accessing health and social care in the community is difficult. The study has potential limitations because it was restricted to studies published in English only and data from low-income countries were scarce.
Conclusions
Stroke management is extremely demanding for patients, and treatment burden is influenced by micro and macro organisation of health services. Knowledge deficits mean patients are ill equipped to organise their care and develop coping strategies, making adherence less likely. There is a need to transform the approach to care provision so that services are configured to prioritise patient needs rather than those of health care systems.
Systematic Review Registration
International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews CRD42011001123
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, 15 million people have a stroke. About 5 million of these people die within a few days, and another 5 million are left disabled. Stroke occurs when the blood supply of the brain is suddenly interrupted by a blood vessel in the brain being blocked by a blood clot (ischemic stroke) or bursting (hemorrhagic stroke). Deprived of the oxygen normally carried to them by the blood, the brain cells near the blockage die. The symptoms of stroke depend on which part of the brain is damaged but include sudden weakness or paralysis along one side of the body, vision loss in one or both eyes, and confusion or trouble speaking or understanding speech. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention because prompt treatment can limit the damage to the brain. In the longer term, post-stroke rehabilitation can help individuals overcome the physical disabilities caused by stroke, and drugs that thin the blood, reduce blood pressure and reduce cholesterol (major risk factors for stroke) alongside behavioral counseling can reduce the risk of a second stroke.
Why Was This Study Done?
Treatment for, and rehabilitation from, stroke is a lengthy process that requires considerable personal investment from the patient. The term “treatment burden” describes the self-care practices that patients with stroke and other chronic diseases must perform to follow the complicated management strategies that have been developed for these conditions. Unfortunately, treatment burden can overwhelm patients. They may be unable to cope with the multiple demands placed on them by health-care providers and systems for their self-care, a situation that leads to poor adherence to therapies and poor outcomes. For example, patients may find it hard to complete all the exercises designed to help them regain full movement of their limbs after a stroke. Treatment burden has been poorly examined in relation to stroke. Here, the researchers identify and describe the treatment burden in stroke by undertaking a systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the literature on a given topic) of qualitative studies on the patient experience of stroke management. Qualitative studies collect non-quantitative data so, for example, a qualitative study on stroke treatment might ask people how the treatment made them feel whereas a quantitative study might compare clinical outcomes between those receiving and not receiving the treatment.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 69 qualitative studies dealing with the experiences of stroke management of adult patients and analyzed the data in these papers using framework synthesis—an approach that divides data into thematic categories. Specifically, the researchers used a coding framework informed by normalization process theory, a sociological theory of the implementation, embedding and integration of tasks and practices; embedding is the process of making tasks and practices a routine part of everyday life and integration refers to sustaining these embedded practices. The researchers identified four main areas of treatment burden for stroke: making sense of stroke management and planning care; interacting with others, including health care professionals, family and other patients with stroke; enacting management strategies (including enduring institutional admissions, managing stroke in the community, reintegrating into society and adjusting to life after stroke); and reflecting on management to make decisions about self-care. Moreover, they identified problems in all these areas, including inadequate provision of information, poor communication with health-care providers, and unsatisfactory inpatient care.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that stroke management is extremely demanding for patients and is influenced by both the micro and macro organization of health services. At the micro organizational level, fragmented care and poor communication between patients and clinicians and between health-care providers can mean patients are ill equipped to organize their care and develop coping strategies, which makes adherence to management strategies less likely. At the macro organizational level, it can be hard for patients to obtain the practical and financial help they need to manage their stroke in the community. Overall, these findings suggest that care provision for stroke needs to be transformed so that the needs of patients rather than the needs of health-care systems are prioritized. Further work is required, however, to understand how the patient experience of treatment burden is affected by the clinical characteristics of stroke, by disability level, and by other co-existing diseases. By undertaking such work, it should be possible to generate a patient-reported outcome measure of treatment burden that, if used by policy makers and health-care providers, has the potential to improve the quality of stroke care.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001473.
The US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke provides information about all aspects of stroke (in English and Spanish); its Know Stroke site provides educational materials about stroke prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation including personal stories (in English and Spanish); the US National Institutes of Health SeniorHealth website has additional information about stroke
The Internet Stroke Center provides detailed information about stroke for patients, families, and health professionals (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website also provides information about stroke for patients and their families, including personal stories
MedlinePlus has links to additional resources about stroke (in English and Spanish)
The UK not-for-profit website Healthtalkonline provides personal stories about stroke
Wikipedia provides information on the burden of treatment and on the normalization process theory (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001473
PMCID: PMC3692487  PMID: 23824703
17.  Terminal cancer care and patients' preference for place of death: a prospective study. 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1990;301(6749):415-417.
OBJECTIVE--To assess the preference of terminally ill patients with cancer for their place of final care. DESIGN--Prospective study of randomly selected patients with cancer from hospital and the community who were expected to die within a year. Patients expected to live less than two months were interviewed at two week intervals; otherwise patients were interviewed monthly. Their main carer was interviewed three months after the patient's death. SETTING--District general hospital, hospices, and patients' homes. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE--Stated preferred place of final care; actual place of death; reason for final hospital admission for those in hospital; community care provision required for home care. RESULTS--Of 98 patients approached, 84 (86%) agreed to be interviewed, of whom 70 (83%) died during the study and 59 (84%) stated a preferred place of final care: 34 (58%) wished to die at home given existing circumstances, 12 (20%) in hospital, 12 (20%) in a hospice, and one (2%) elsewhere. Their own home was the preferred place of care for 17 (94%) of the patients who died there, whereas of the 32 patients who died in hospital 22 (69%) had stated a preference to die elsewhere. Had circumstances been more favourable 67% (41) of patients would have preferred to die at home, 16% (10) in hospital, and 15% (9) in hospice. CONCLUSION--With a limited increase in community care 50% more patients with cancer could be supported to die at home, as they and their carers would prefer.
PMCID: PMC1663663  PMID: 1967134
18.  Actual and Preferred Place of Death of Home-Dwelling Patients in Four European Countries: Making Sense of Quality Indicators 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93762.
Background
Dying at home and dying at the preferred place of death are advocated to be desirable outcomes of palliative care. More insight is needed in their usefulness as quality indicators. Our objective is to describe whether “the percentage of patients dying at home” and “the percentage of patients who died in their place of preference” are feasible and informative quality indicators.
Methods and Findings
A mortality follow-back study was conducted, based on data recorded by representative GP networks regarding home-dwelling patients who died non-suddenly in Belgium (n = 1036), the Netherlands (n = 512), Italy (n = 1639) or Spain (n = 565). “The percentage of patients dying at home” ranged between 35.3% (Belgium) and 50.6% (the Netherlands) in the four countries, while “the percentage of patients dying at their preferred place of death” ranged between 67.8% (Italy) and 86.0% (Spain). Both indicators were strongly associated with palliative care provision by the GP (odds ratios of 1.55–13.23 and 2.30–6.63, respectively). The quality indicator concerning the preferred place of death offers a broader view than the indicator concerning home deaths, as it takes into account all preferences met in all locations. However, GPs did not know the preferences for place of death in 39.6% (the Netherlands) to 70.3% (Italy), whereas the actual place of death was known in almost all cases.
Conclusion
GPs know their patients’ actual place of death, making the percentage of home deaths a feasible indicator for collection by GPs. However, patients’ preferred place of death was often unknown to the GP. We therefore recommend using information from relatives as long as information from GPs on the preferred place of death is lacking. Timely communication about the place where patients want to be cared for at the end of life remains a challenge for GPs.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0093762
PMCID: PMC3979710  PMID: 24714736
19.  Improving end‐of‐life care for patients with chronic heart failure: “Let's hope it'll get better, when I know in my heart of hearts it won't” 
Heart  2007;93(8):963-967.
Background
Although chronic heart failure (CHF) has a high mortality rate and symptom burden, and clinical guidance stipulates palliative care intervention, there is a lack of evidence to guide clinical practice for patients approaching the end of life.
Aims
(1) To formulate guidance and recommendations for improving end‐of‐life care in CHF; (2) to generate data on patients' and carers' preferences regarding future treatment modalities, and to investigate communication between staff, patients and carers on end‐of‐life issues.
Design
Semistructured qualitative interviews were conducted with 20 patients with CHF (New York Heart Association functional classification III–IV), 11 family carers, 6 palliative care clinicians and 6 cardiology clinicians.
Setting
A tertiary hospital in London, UK.
Results
Patients and families reported a wide range of end‐of‐life care preferences. None had discussed these with their clinicians, and none was aware of choices or alternatives in future care modalities, such as adopting a palliative approach. Patients and carers live with fear and anxiety, and are uninformed about the implications of their diagnosis. Cardiac staff confirmed that they rarely raise such issues with patients. Disease‐ and specialism‐specific barriers to improving end‐of‐life care were identified.
Conclusions
The novel, integrated data presented here provide three recommendations for improving care in line with policy directives: sensitive provision of information and discussion of end‐of‐life issues with patients and families; mutual education of cardiology and palliative care staff; and mutually agreed palliative care referral criteria and care pathways for patients with CHF.
doi:10.1136/hrt.2006.106518
PMCID: PMC1994396  PMID: 17309905
20.  A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Utility-Based Quality of Life in Chronic Kidney Disease Treatments 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(9):e1001307.
Melanie Wyld and colleagues examined previously published studies to assess pooled utility-based quality of life of the various treatments for chronic kidney disease. They conclude that the highest utility was for kidney transplants, with home-based automated peritoneal dialysis being second.
Background
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a common and costly condition to treat. Economic evaluations of health care often incorporate patient preferences for health outcomes using utilities. The objective of this study was to determine pooled utility-based quality of life (the numerical value attached to the strength of an individual's preference for a specific health outcome) by CKD treatment modality.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a systematic review, meta-analysis, and meta-regression of peer-reviewed published articles and of PhD dissertations published through 1 December 2010 that reported utility-based quality of life (utility) for adults with late-stage CKD. Studies reporting utilities by proxy (e.g., reported by a patient's doctor or family member) were excluded.
In total, 190 studies reporting 326 utilities from over 56,000 patients were analysed. There were 25 utilities from pre-treatment CKD patients, 226 from dialysis patients (haemodialysis, n = 163; peritoneal dialysis, n = 44), 66 from kidney transplant patients, and three from patients treated with non-dialytic conservative care. Using time tradeoff as a referent instrument, kidney transplant recipients had a mean utility of 0.82 (95% CI: 0.74, 0.90). The mean utility was comparable in pre-treatment CKD patients (difference = −0.02; 95% CI: −0.09, 0.04), 0.11 lower in dialysis patients (95% CI: −0.15, −0.08), and 0.2 lower in conservative care patients (95% CI: −0.38, −0.01). Patients treated with automated peritoneal dialysis had a significantly higher mean utility (0.80) than those on continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (0.72; p = 0.02). The mean utility of transplant patients increased over time, from 0.66 in the 1980s to 0.85 in the 2000s, an increase of 0.19 (95% CI: 0.11, 0.26). Utility varied by elicitation instrument, with standard gamble producing the highest estimates, and the SF-6D by Brazier et al., University of Sheffield, producing the lowest estimates. The main limitations of this study were that treatment assignments were not random, that only transplant had longitudinal data available, and that we calculated EuroQol Group EQ-5D scores from SF-36 and SF-12 health survey data, and therefore the algorithms may not reflect EQ-5D scores measured directly.
Conclusions
For patients with late-stage CKD, treatment with dialysis is associated with a significant decrement in quality of life compared to treatment with kidney transplantation. These findings provide evidence-based utility estimates to inform economic evaluations of kidney therapies, useful for policy makers and in individual treatment discussions with CKD patients.
Editors' Summary
Background
Ill health can adversely affect an individual's quality of life, particularly if caused by long-term (chronic) conditions, such as chronic kidney disease—in the United States alone, 23 million people have chronic kidney disease, of whom 570,000 are treated with dialysis or kidney transplantation. In order to measure the cost-effectiveness of interventions to manage medical conditions, health economists use an objective measurement known as quality-adjusted life years. However, although useful, quality-adjusted life years are often criticized for not taking into account the views and preferences of the individuals with the medical conditions. A measurement called a utility solves this problem. Utilities are a numerical value (measured on a 0 to 1 scale, where 0 represents death and 1 represents full health) of the strength of an individual's preference for specified health-related outcomes, as measured by “instruments” (questionnaires) that rate direct comparisons or assess quality of life.
Why Was This Study Done?
Previous studies have suggested that, in people with chronic kidney disease, quality of life (as measured by utility) is higher in those with a functioning kidney transplant than in those on dialysis. However, currently, it is unclear whether the type of dialysis affects quality of life: hemodialysis is a highly technical process that directly filters the blood, usually must be done 2–4 times a week, and can only be performed in a health facility; peritoneal dialysis, in which fluids are infused into the abdominal cavity, can be done nightly at home (automated peritoneal dialysis) or throughout the day (continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis). In this study, the researchers reviewed and assimilated all of the available evidence to investigate whether quality of life in people with chronic kidney disease (as measured by utility) differed according to treatment type.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers did a comprehensive search of 11 databases to identify all relevant studies that included people with severe (stage 3, 4, or 5) chronic kidney disease, their form of treatment, and information on utilities—either reported directly, or included in quality of life instruments (SF-36), so the researchers could calculate utilities by using a validated algorithm. The researchers also recorded the prevalence rates of diabetes in study participants. Then, using statistical models that adjusted for various factors, including treatment type and the method of measuring utilities, the researchers were able to calculate the pooled utilities of each form of treatment for chronic kidney disease.
The researchers included 190 studies, representing over 56,000 patients and generating 326 utility estimates, in their analysis. The majority of utilities (77%) were derived through the SF-36 questionnaire via calculation. Of the 326 utility estimates, 25 were from patients pre-dialysis, 226 were from dialysis patients (the majority of whom were receiving hemodialysis), 66 were from kidney transplant patients, and three were from conservative care patients. The researchers found that the highest average utility was for those who had renal transplantation, 0.82, followed by the pre-dialysis group (0.80), dialysis patients (0.71), and, finally, patients receiving conservative care (0.62). When comparing the type of dialysis, the researchers found that there was little difference in utility between hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis, but patients using automated peritoneal dialysis had, on average, a higher utility (0.80) than those treated with continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (0.72). Finally, the researchers found that patient groups with diabetes had significantly lower utilities than those without diabetes.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that in people with chronic kidney disease, renal transplantation is the best treatment option to improve quality of life. For those on dialysis, home-based automated peritoneal dialysis may improve quality of life more than the other forms of dialysis: this finding is important, as this type of dialysis is not as widely used as other forms and is also cheaper than hemodialysis. Furthermore, these findings suggest that patients who choose conservative care have significantly lower quality of life than patients treated with dialysis, a finding that warrants further investigation. Overall, in addition to helping to inform economic evaluations of treatment options, the information from this analysis can help guide clinicians caring for patients with chronic kidney disease in their discussions about possible treatment options.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001307.
Information about chronic kidney disease is available from the National Kidney Foundation and MedlinePlus
Wikipedia gives information on general utilities (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001307
PMCID: PMC3439392  PMID: 22984353
21.  Understanding the barriers to identifying carers of people with advanced illness in primary care: triangulating three data sources 
BMC Family Practice  2014;15:48.
Background
Approximately 10% of the UK population have an unpaid caring role for a family member or friend. Many of these carers make a significant contribution to supporting patients at the end of life. Carers can experience poor physical and psychosocial wellbeing, yet they remain largely unsupported by health and social care services. Despite initiatives for general practices to identify carers and their needs, many remain unidentified. Neither are carers self-identifying and requesting support. This study set out to explore the barriers to, and consider strategies for, identifying carers in primary care.
Methods
We integrated findings from three data sources – a review of the caregiving literature; a workshop with researchers who have undertaken research with those caring at the end of life, and focus groups with carers and health professionals.
Results
Three categories of barrier emerged. 1) Taking on the care of another person is often a gradual process, carers did not immediately identify with being a ‘carer’ – preferring to think of themselves in relational terms to the patient e.g. spouse, sibling, son or daughter. Often it was health and social care professionals who encouraged carers to consider themselves as an unpaid carer. 2) As the cared-for person’s condition deteriorated, the caring role often became all-encompassing so that carers were managing competing demands, and felt unable to look after their own needs as well as those of the cared-for person. 3) There was ambiguity about the legitimacy of carer needs and about the role of the primary health care team in supporting carers, from both the perspective of the carers and the health professionals. GPs were thought to be reactive rather than proactive which discouraged carers from asking for help.
Conclusions
The needs of carers have to be legitimised to ensure primary care staff are proactive in their approach and carers are empowered to utilise the support available. Strategies to identify carers have to be sensitive to the complex dynamics of a caring relationship as well as the primary care context. Identification is a key factor in improving support for carers themselves and to enable them to support the patient.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-15-48
PMCID: PMC3992158  PMID: 24690099
End of life; Family carer; Identification; Informal carer; Lay carer; Palliative care; Primary care; Support
22.  End of life care in sub-Saharan Africa: a systematic review of the qualitative literature 
BMC Palliative Care  2011;10:6.
Background
End of life (EoL) care in sub-Saharan Africa still lacks the sound evidence-base needed for the development of effective, appropriate service provision. It is essential to make evidence from all types of research available alongside clinical and health service data, to ensure that EoL care is ethical and culturally appropriate. This article aims to synthesize qualitative research on EoL care in sub-Saharan Africa to inform policy, practice and further research. It seeks to identify areas of existing research; describe findings specifically relevant to the African context; and, identify areas lacking evidence.
Methods
Relevant literature was identified through eight electronic databases: AMED, British Nursing Index & Archive, CINAHL, EMBASE, IBSS, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, and the Social Sciences Citation Index; and hand searches. Inclusion criteria were: published qualitative or mixed-method studies in sub-Saharan Africa, about EoL care. Study quality was assessed using a standard grading scale. Relevant data including findings and practice recommendations were extracted and compared in tabular format.
Results
Of the 407 articles initially identified, 51 were included in the qualitative synthesis. Nineteen came from South Africa and the majority (38) focused on HIV/AIDS. Nine dealt with multiple or unspecified conditions and four were about cancer. Study respondents included health professionals, informal carers, patients, community members and bereaved relatives. Informal carers were typically women, the elderly and children, providing total care in the home, and lacking support from professionals or the extended family. Twenty studies focused on home-based care, describing how programmes function in practice and what is needed to make them effective. Patients and carers were reported to prefer institutional care but this needs to be understood in context. Studies focusing on culture discussed good and bad death, culture-specific approaches to symptoms and illness, and the bereavement process.
Conclusions
The data support or complement the findings from quantitative research. The review prompts a reconsideration of the assumption that in Africa the extended family care for the sick, and that people prefer home-based care. The review identifies areas relevant for a research agenda on socio-cultural issues at the EoL in sub-Saharan Africa.
doi:10.1186/1472-684X-10-6
PMCID: PMC3070681  PMID: 21388538
23.  Associations between palliative chemotherapy and adult cancer patients’ end of life care and place of death: prospective cohort study 
Objectives To determine whether the receipt of chemotherapy among terminally ill cancer patients months before death was associated with patients’ subsequent intensive medical care and place of death.
Design Secondary analysis of a prospective, multi-institution, longitudinal study of patients with advanced cancer.
Setting Eight outpatient oncology clinics in the United States.
Participants 386 adult patients with metastatic cancers refractory to at least one chemotherapy regimen, whom physicians identified as terminally ill at study enrollment and who subsequently died.
Main outcome measures Primary outcomes: intensive medical care (cardiopulmonary resuscitation, mechanical ventilation, or both) in the last week of life and patients’ place of death (for example, intensive care unit). Secondary outcomes: survival, late hospice referrals (≤1 week before death), and dying in preferred place of death.
Results 216 (56%) of 386 terminally ill cancer patients were receiving palliative chemotherapy at study enrollment, a median of 4.0 months before death. After propensity score weighted adjustment, use of chemotherapy at enrollment was associated with higher rates of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, mechanical ventilation, or both in the last week of life (14% v 2%; adjusted risk difference 10.5%, 95% confidence interval 5.0% to 15.5%) and late hospice referrals (54% v 37%; 13.6%, 3.6% to 23.6%) but no difference in survival (hazard ratio 1.11, 95% confidence interval 0.90 to 1.38). Patients receiving palliative chemotherapy were more likely to die in an intensive care unit (11% v 2%; adjusted risk difference 6.1%, 1.1% to 11.1%) and less likely to die at home (47% v 66%; −10.8%, −1.0% to −20.6%), compared with those who were not. Patients receiving palliative chemotherapy were also less likely to die in their preferred place, compared with those who were not (65% v 80%; adjusted risk difference −9.4%, −0.8% to −18.1%).
Conclusions The use of chemotherapy in terminally ill cancer patients in the last months of life was associated with an increased risk of undergoing cardiopulmonary resuscitation, mechanical ventilation or both and of dying in an intensive care unit. Future research should determine the mechanisms by which palliative chemotherapy affects end of life outcomes and patients’ attainment of their goals.
doi:10.1136/bmj.g1219
PMCID: PMC3942564  PMID: 24594868
24.  Post-neonatal Mortality, Morbidity, and Developmental Outcome after Ultrasound-Dated Preterm Birth in Rural Malawi: A Community-Based Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(11):e1001121.
Using data collected as a follow-up to a randomized trial, Melissa Gladstone and colleagues show that during the first two years of life, infants born preterm in southern Malawi are disadvantaged in terms of mortality, growth, and development.
Background
Preterm birth is considered to be associated with an estimated 27% of neonatal deaths, the majority in resource-poor countries where rates of prematurity are high. There is no information on medium term outcomes after accurately determined preterm birth in such settings.
Methods and Findings
This community-based stratified cohort study conducted between May–December 2006 in Southern Malawi followed up 840 post-neonatal infants born to mothers who had received antenatal antibiotic prophylaxis/placebo in an attempt to reduce rates of preterm birth (APPLe trial ISRCTN84023116). Gestational age at delivery was based on ultrasound measurement of fetal bi-parietal diameter in early-mid pregnancy. 247 infants born before 37 wk gestation and 593 term infants were assessed at 12, 18, or 24 months. We assessed survival (death), morbidity (reported by carer, admissions, out-patient attendance), growth (weight and height), and development (Ten Question Questionnaire [TQQ] and Malawi Developmental Assessment Tool [MDAT]). Preterm infants were at significantly greater risk of death (hazard ratio 1.79, 95% CI 1.09–2.95). Surviving preterm infants were more likely to be underweight (weight-for-age z score; p<0.001) or wasted (weight-for-length z score; p<0.01) with no effect of gestational age at delivery. Preterm infants more often screened positively for disability on the Ten Question Questionnaire (p = 0.002). They also had higher rates of developmental delay on the MDAT at 18 months (p = 0.009), with gestational age at delivery (p = 0.01) increasing this likelihood. Morbidity—visits to a health centre (93%) and admissions to hospital (22%)—was similar for both groups.
Conclusions
During the first 2 years of life, infants who are born preterm in resource poor countries, continue to be at a disadvantage in terms of mortality, growth, and development. In addition to interventions in the immediate neonatal period, a refocus on early childhood is needed to improve outcomes for infants born preterm in low-income settings.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Being born at term in Africa is not necessarily straightforward. In Malawi, 33 of every 1,000 infants born die in the first 28 days after birth; the lifetime risk for a mother dying during or shortly after pregnancy is one in 36. The comparable figures for the United Kingdom are three infants dying per 1,000 births and a lifetime risk of maternal death of one in 4,700. But for a baby, being born preterm is even more risky and the gap between low- and high-income countries widens still further. According to a World Health Organization report in 2010, a baby born at 32 weeks of gestation (weighing around 2,000 g) in Africa has little chance of survival, while the chances of survival for a baby born at 32 weeks in North America or Europe are similar to one born at term. There are very few data on the longer term outcomes of babies born preterm in Africa and there are multiple challenges involved in gathering such information. As prenatal ultrasound is not routinely available, gestational age is often uncertain. There may be little routine follow-up of preterm babies as is commonplace in high-income countries. Data are needed from recent years that take into account both improvements in perinatal care and adverse factors such as a rising number of infants becoming HIV positive around the time of birth.
Why Was This Study Done?
We could improve outcomes for babies born preterm in sub-Saharan Africa if we understood more about what happens to them after birth. We cannot assume that the progress of these babies will be the same as those born preterm in a high-income country, as the latter group will have received different care, both before and after birth. If we can document the problems that these preterm babies face in a low-income setting, we can consider why they happen and what treatments can be realistically tested in this setting. It is also helpful to establish baseline data so that changes over time can be recorded.
The aim of this study was to document four specific outcomes up to the age of two years, on which there were few data previously from rural sub-Saharan Africa: how many babies survived, visits to a health center and admissions to the hospital, growth, and developmental delay.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers examined a group of babies that had been born to mothers who had taken part in a randomized controlled trial of an antibiotic to prevent preterm birth. The trial had previously shown that the antibiotic (azithromycin) had no effect on how many babies were born preterm or on other measures of the infants' wellbeing, and so the researchers followed up babies from both arms of the trial to look at longer term outcomes. From the original group of 2,297 women who took part in the trial, they compared 247 infants born preterm against 593 term infants randomly chosen as controls, assessed at 12, 18, or 24 months. The majority of the preterm babies who survived past a month of age (all but ten) were born after 32 weeks of gestation. Compared to the babies born at term, the infants born preterm were nearly twice as likely to die subsequently in the next two years, were more likely to be underweight (a third were moderately underweight), and to have higher rates of developmental delay. The commonest causes of death were gastroenteritis, respiratory problems, and malaria. Visits to a health center and admissions to hospital were similar in both groups.
What Do these Findings Mean?
This study documents longer term outcomes of babies born preterm in sub-Saharan Africa in detail for the first time. The strengths of the study include prenatal ultrasound dating and correct adjustment of follow-up age (which takes into account being born before term). Because the researchers defined morbidity using routine health center attendances and self-report of illnesses by parents, this outcome does not seem to have been as useful as the others in differentiating between the preterm and term babies. Better means of measuring morbidity are needed in this setting.
In the developed world, there is considerable investment being made to improve care during pregnancy and in the neonatal period. This investment in care may help by predicting which mothers are more likely to give birth early and preventing preterm birth through drug or other treatments. It is to be hoped that some of the benefit will be transferable to low-income countries. A baby born at 26 weeks' gestation and admitted to a neonatal unit in the United Kingdom has a 67% chance of survival; preterm babies born in sub-Saharan Africa face a starkly contrasting future.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001121.
UNICEF presents useful statistics on mother and child outcomes
The World Health Organization has attempted to analyse preterm birth rates worldwide, including mapping the regional distribution and has also produced practical guides on strategies such as Kangaroo Mother Care, which can be used for the care of preterm infants in low resource settings
Healthy Newborn Network has good information on initiatives taking place to improve neonatal outcomes in low income settings
The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, provides information on research being conducted into preterm birth
Tommy's is a nonprofit organization that funds research and provides information on the risks and causes of premature birth
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001121
PMCID: PMC3210771  PMID: 22087079
25.  What is different about living alone with cancer in older age? A qualitative study of experiences and preferences for care 
BMC Family Practice  2013;14:22.
Background
Increasing numbers of older patients with advanced cancer live alone but there is little research on how well health services meet their needs. The aim of this study was to compare the experiences and future preferences for care between two groups of older people with cancer in their last year of life; those who live alone, and those who live with co-resident carers.
Methods
In-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with 32 people aged between 70 and 95 years who were living with cancer. They were recruited from general practices and hospice day care, when the responsible health professional answered no to the question, of whether they would be surprised if the patient died within twelve months. Twenty participants lived alone. Interviews were recorded and transcribed and the data analysed using a Framework approach, focussing on the differences and commonalities between the two groups.
Results
Many experiences were common to all participants, but had broader consequences for people who lived alone. Five themes are presented from the data: a perception that it is a disadvantage to live alone as a patient, the importance of relational continuity with health professionals, informal appraisal of care, place of care and future plans. People who lived alone perceived emotional and practical barriers to accessing care, and many shared an anxiety that they would have to move into a care home. Participants were concerned with remaining life, and all who lived alone had made plans for death but not for dying. Uncertainty of timescales and a desire to wait until they knew that death was imminent were some of the reasons given for not planning for future care needs.
Conclusions
Older people who live alone with cancer have emotional and practical concerns that are overlooked by their professional carers. Discussion and planning for the future, along with continuity in primary care may hold the key to enhancing end-of-life care for this group of patients.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-14-22
PMCID: PMC3640927  PMID: 23425223
Living arrangements; Aged; Aged, 80 and over; Health services for the aged; Neoplasms; Palliative care; Terminal care; Advanced care planning

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