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Sentinel practices in evaluating longer periods of care: quality of life and drug therapy of terminally ill persons in Lower Saxony (Germany)

Busse R, Wagner H-P, Krauth C, Klein-Lange M, Schwartz FW

J Epidemiol Community Health 52: 46S-50S





STUDY OBJECTIVES: (1) To study the feasibility of using sentinel practice networks to evaluate longer periods of care. (2) To assess the quality of life and drug therapy of community dwelling terminally ill persons. DESIGN: Prospective longitudinal design with GPs in an existing sentinel practice network identifying "terminally ill" persons and recording the following data: age, sex, diagnoses, and ongoing drug therapy initially, time, place, duration, services, and drug changes for every contact, quality of life (HRCA-QL Index, Spitzer Index, uniscale), pain intensity and frequency on a weekly basis, and time and circumstances of death. SETTING: 26 GP practices in Lower Saxony, Germany. PATIENTS: 47 patients (age: mean 76 years, range 31 to 98; sex: 21 male, 26 female; diagnosis: 35 with cancer) with 582 contacts. Mean of recorded time before death was 70 days (median 50). MAIN RESULTS: Average number of physician-patient contacts increased from 0.7 a week three months before death to 2.4 in the final week. Quality of life decreased during that period (HRCA-QL Index: 5.1 to 0.8; Spitzer: 4.4 to 0.8; uniscale: 37 to 9). In the last week of life, no person was free of pain; analgetic therapy was "successful" in 57% of cases. CONCLUSIONS: (1) The sentinel practice approach is feasible for evaluating longer periods of care. The generalisibility, however, may be limited to certain subgroups. (2) The observed trends in quality of life, pain, and analgetic treatment should be compared with those in other settings and countries to identify the scope of care improvement.

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