Has There Been a Shift in Use of Subacute Rehabilitation Instead of Hospice Referral Since Immunotherapy Has Become Available?

Jonathan C. Yeh, Louise S. Knight, Joyce Kane, Danielle J. Doberman, Arjun Gupta, Thomas J. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: Immunotherapy has rapidly become the mainstream treatment of multiple cancer types. Since the first drug approval in 2011, we have noted a decline in referrals from inpatient oncology to hospice and an increase in referrals to subacute rehabilitation (SAR) facilities, possibly with the aim of getting strong enough for immunotherapy and other promising drugs. This study explores outcomes after discharge to SAR, including rates of cancer-directed therapy after SAR, overall survival, and hospice use. METHODS: We performed an electronic chart review of patients discharged from our inpatient oncology units to SAR facilities from 2009 to 2017. Demographics, admission statistics, and post-discharge outcomes were gathered from discharge summaries and targeted chart searches. RESULTS: Three hundred fifty-eight patients were referred to SAR 413 times. One hundred seventy-four patients (49%) returned to the oncology clinic before readmission or death, and only 117 (33%) ever received additional cancer-directed treatment (chemotherapy, radiation, or immunotherapy). Among all discharges, 28% led to readmissions within 30 days. Seventy-four patients (21%) were deceased within 30 days, only 31% of whom were referred to hospice. Palliative care involvement resulted in more frequent do not resuscitate code status, documented goals of care discussions, and electronic advance directives. CONCLUSION: A growing number of oncology inpatients are being discharged to SAR, but two thirds do not receive additional cancer therapy at any point, including a substantial fraction who are readmitted or deceased within 1 month. These data can help guide decision making and hospital discharge planning that aligns with patients' goals of care. More clinical data are needed to predict who is most likely to benefit from SAR and proceed to further cancer therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e849-e855
JournalJournal of Oncology Practice
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


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