End-of-Life Care in Nursing Homes: From Care Processes to Quality
Background/Objective: Nursing homes (NHs) are an important setting for the provision of palliative and end-of-life (EOL) care. Excessive reliance on hospitalizations at EOL and infrequent enrollment in hospice are key quality concerns in this setting. We examined the association between communicationamong NH providers and between providers and residents/family membersand two EOL quality measures (QMs): in-hospital deaths and hospice use. Design and Methods: We developed two measures of communication by using a survey tool implemented in a random sample of U.S. NHs in 2011-12. Using secondary data (Minimum Data Set, Medicare, and hospice claims), we developed two risk-adjusted quality metrics for in-hospital death and hospice use. In the 1201 NHs, which completed the survey, we identified 54,526 residents, age 65+, who died in 2011. Psychometric assessment of the two communication measures included principal factor and internal consistency reliability analyses. Random-effect logistic and weighted least-square regression models were estimated to develop facility-level risk-adjusted QMs, and to assess the effect of communication measures on the quality metrics. Results: Better communication with residents/family members was statistically significantly (p=0.015) associated with fewer in-hospital deaths. However, better communication among providers was significantly (p=0.006) associated with lower use of hospice. Conclusions: Investing in NHs to improve communication between providers and residents/family may lead to fewer in-hospital deaths. Improved communication between providers appears to reduce, rather than increase, NH-to-hospice referrals. The actual impact of improved provider communication on residents' EOL care quality needs to be better understood.