Background: A majority of patients with poor-prognosis cancer express a preference for in-home death; however, in-hospital deaths are common.
Objective: We sought to identify characteristics associated with in-hospital death.
Design: Case series.
Setting/Subjects: Commercially insured patients with cancer who died between July 2010 and December 2013 and who had at least two outpatient visits at a tertiary cancer center during the last six months of life.
Measurements: Patient characteristics, healthcare utilization, and in-hospital death (primary outcome) were ascertained from institutional records and healthcare claims. Bivariate and multivariable analyses were used to evaluate the association of in-hospital death with patient characteristics and end-of-life outcome measures.
Results: We identified 904 decedents, with a median age of 59 years at death. In-hospital death was observed in 254 patients (28%), including 110 (12%) who died in an intensive care unit. Hematologic malignancy was associated with a 2.57 times increased risk of in-hospital death (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.91-3.45, p <0.001), and nonenrollment in hospice was associated with a 14.5 times increased risk of in-hospital death (95% CI 9.81-21.4, p <0.001). Time from cancer diagnosis to death was also associated with in-hospital death (p = 0.003), with the greatest risk among patients dying within six months of cancer diagnosis. All significant associations persisted in multivariable analyses that were adjusted for baseline characteristics.
Conclusions: In-hospital deaths are common among commercially insured cancer patients. Patients with hematologic malignancy and patients who die without receiving hospice services have a substantially higher incidence of in-hospital death.