There is evidence that palliative care and floating (inpatient) hospice can improve end-of-life experiences for patients and their families in the intensive care unit (ICU). However, both palliative care and hospice remain underutilized in the ICU setting.
This study examined palliative consultations and floating hospice referrals for ICU patients during a phased launch of floating hospice, 2 palliative order sets, and general education to support implementation of palliative care guidelines.
This descriptive, retrospective study was conducted at a level I trauma and academic medical center. Electronic medical records of 400 ICU patients who died in the hospital were randomly selected. These electronic medical records were reviewed to determine if patients received a palliative consult and/or a floating hospice referral, as well as whether the new palliative support tools were used during the course of care. The numbers of floating hospice referrals and palliative consults were measured over time.
Although not significant, palliative consults increased over time (P = .055). After the initial introduction of floating hospice, 27% of the patients received referrals; however, referrals did not significantly increase over time (P = .807). Of the 68 patients who received a floating hospice referral (24%), only 38 were discharged to floating hospice. There was a trend toward earlier palliative care consults, although this was not statistically significant (P = .285).
This study provided the organization with vital information about their initiative to expand end-of-life resources. Utilization and timing of palliative consults and floating hospice referrals were lower and later than expected, highlighting the importance of developing purposeful strategies beyond education to address ICU cultural and structural barriers.