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Outpatient palliative care for chronic heart failure: a case series.

Bekelman DB, Nowels CT, Allen LA, Shakar S, Kutner JS, Matlock DD. Outpatient palliative care for chronic heart failure: a case series. Journal of palliative medicine. 2011 Jul 1; 14(7):815-21.

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BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: Although the palliative care needs of outpatients with chronic heart failure (HF) are numerous, there is limited published experience in providing outpatient HF palliative care. This article describes the patients seen and the issues addressed in an outpatient palliative care program for patients with HF. METHODS: Case series involving a retrospective medical record review using descriptive quantitative and qualitative analysis. RESULTS: Over a 3 year time period, 50 patients were seen, resulting in 228 total visits. Fifty percent of patients were seen only once. Fifty-eight percent of patients had New York Heart Association (NYHA) Class III-IV HF. Within a year of the initial palliative care visit, 14% of patients died. Depression, anxiety, pain, fatigue, breathlessness, and sleep disturbance were common symptoms addressed during visits. Advance care planning topics were discussed with 48% of patients; hospice and resuscitation status were each discussed with 16% of patients. Fears or concerns about the future arose in 34% of patients. Care coordination was commonly addressed with patients'' other health care providers (58%). The most common referrals were to social work (26%) and rehabilitation/physical therapy (20%). CONCLUSIONS: Several findings reflect how outpatient HF palliative care differs from that of inpatient hospital-based palliative care. Many of the issues addressed, including care coordination, advance care planning, and psychosocial issues, imply that palliative HF care is complementary to standard HF care at all stages of the disease process and that future programs should consider dedicating a nurse and/or social worker. Research is needed to test how such a care model affects patient-centered outcomes, utilization, and cost.

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