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Open Access Research article

Home visits by family physicians during the end-of-life: Does patient income or residence play a role?

Frederick I Burge1*, Beverley Lawson1 and Grace Johnston2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Family Medicine, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada

2 School of Health Services Administration, Dalhousie University; and Cancer Care Nova Scotia, Halifax, NS, Canada

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BMC Palliative Care 2005, 4:1  doi:10.1186/1472-684X-4-1

Published: 27 January 2005

Abstract

Background

With a growing trend for those with advanced cancer to die at home, there is a corresponding increase in need for primary medical care in that setting. Yet those with lower incomes and in rural regions are often challenged to have their health care needs met. This study examined the association between patient income and residence and the receipt of Family Physician (FP) home visits during the end-of-life among patients with cancer.

Methods

Data Sources/Study Setting. Secondary analysis of linked population-based data. Information pertaining to all patients who died due to lung, colorectal, breast or prostate cancer between 1992 and 1997 (N = 7,212) in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia (NS) was extracted from three administrative health databases and from Statistics Canada census records. Study Design. An ecological measure of income ('neighbourhood' median household income) was developed using census information. Multivariate logistic regression was then used to assess the association of income with the receipt of at least one home visit from a FP among all subjects and by region of residency during the end-of-life. Covariates in the initial multivariate model included patient demographics and alternative health services information such as total days spent as a hospital inpatient. Data Extraction Methods. Encrypted patient health card numbers were used to link all administrative health databases whereas the postal code was the link to Statistics Canada census information.

Results

Over 45% of all subjects received at least one home visit (n = 3265). Compared to those from low income areas, the log odds of receiving at least one home visit was significantly greater among subjects who reside in middle to high income neighbourhoods (for the highest income quintile, adjusted odds ratio [OR] = 1.37, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.15, 1.64; for upper-middle income, adjusted OR = 1.19, 95%CI = 1.02, 1.39; for middle income, adjusted OR = 1.33, 95%CI = 1.15, 1.54). This association was found to be primarily associated with residency outside of the largest metropolitan region of the province.

Conclusion

The likelihood of receiving a FP home visit during the end-of-life is associated with neighbourhood income particularly among patients living outside of a major metropolitan region.