A pilot study compiled data from six palliative care centres across Canada to assess the feasibility of developing a national surveillance system.
Data provided for the three-year period between 1993-1997 were combined into a comparative minimum data set. Analyses included 6,369 care episodes from five centres, plus 948 patients from one centre.
Care was provided in various settings including acute care wards, dedicated palliative care units, tertiary care, chronic care, and at home. Palliative care patients comprised equal numbers of men and women, with a median age of 69 years; 92% had cancer diagnoses. Median length of stay (LOS) for each care episode was 13 days, increasing to 40-43 days for a patient's entire time in care. LOS varied greatly, by care setting, from seven days (dedicated unit), to 19 days (tertiary unit), 37 days (home), and 54 days (chronic care). Our findings are similar to those reported from national surveys in Australia and the United Kingdom.
This study generated useful baseline data and identified key issues requiring resolution before establishing a national surveillance system, including the need to track patients across care settings.