Several studies have demonstrated the benefits of early initiation of end-of-life care, particularly homecare nursing services. However, there is little research on variations in the timing of when end-of-life homecare nursing is initiated and no established benchmarks.
This is a retrospective cohort study of patients with a cancer-confirmed cause of death between 2004 and 2009, from three Canadian provinces (British Columbia, Nova Scotia, and Ontario). We linked multiple administrative health databases within each province to examine homecare use in the last 6 months of life. Our primary outcome was mean time (in days) to first end-of-life homecare nursing visit, starting from 6 months before death, by region. We developed an empiric benchmark for this outcome using a funnel plot, controlling for region size.
Of the 28 regions, large variations in the outcome were observed, with the longest mean time (97 days) being two-fold longer than the shortest (55 days). On average, British Columbia and Nova Scotia had the first and second shortest mean times, respectively. The province of Ontario consistently had longer mean times. The empiric benchmark mean based on best-performing regions was 57 mean days.
Significant variation exists for the time to initiation of end-of-life homecare nursing across regions. Understanding regional variation and developing an empiric benchmark for homecare nursing can support health system planners to set achievable targets for earlier initiation of end-of-life care.