Department of Sociology, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina; Center for Home Care Policy & Research, Visiting Nurse Service of New York, New York, New York. Electronic address: [Email]
OBJECTIVE : This study identified sociodemographic and clinical factors that predicted live discharge among home hospice patients with heart failure, and related these findings to perspectives among health care providers about challenges to caring for these patients. BACKGROUND : Hospice patients with heart failure are frequently discharged from hospice before death ("live discharge"). However, little is known about the factors and circumstances associated with live discharge among patients with heart failure. METHODS : Quantitative analyses of patient medical records (N = 1,498) and qualitative interviews were performed with health care providers (n = 19) at a not-for-profit hospice agency in New York City. RESULTS : Thirty percent of home hospice patients with heart failure experienced a live discharge, most frequently due to 911 calls that led to acute hospitalization. The odds of acute hospitalization were higher for younger patients (age 18 to 74 years: adjusted odds ratio [AOR]: 2.10; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.34 to 3.28), African American (AOR: 2.06; 95% CI: 1.31 to 3.24) or Hispanic (AOR: 2.99; 95% CI: 1.99 to 4.50) patients, and higher functioning patients (Palliative Performance Scores of 50% to 70%; AOR: 5.68; 95% CI: 3.66 to 8.79). Qualitative interviews with health care providers highlighted the unique characteristics of heart failure (e.g., sudden changes in patients' condition), the importance of patients' understanding of hospice and their own prognosis, and the role of sociocultural and family context in precipitating and potentially preventing live discharge (e.g., absence of social supports in the home). CONCLUSIONS : Live discharge from hospice, especially due to acute hospitalization, is common with heart failure. Greater attention is needed for patients' knowledge of and readiness for hospice care, especially among younger and diverse populations, and for factors related to the social and family context in which hospice care is provided.