New tool predicts when long-term care patients will die

Researchers in Ottawa have come up with a tool to both predict how much time patients in long-term care have left, and to kick-start the important conversations that need to take place before they die.

Ottawa researchers hope prediction tool will help spur important end-of-life conversations

Dr. Peter Tanuseputro is a family doctor and researcher with the Bruyè​re and Ottawa Hospital research institutes. (Ottawa Hospital Research Institute)

Researchers in Ottawa have come up with a tool to both predict how much time patients in long-term care have left, and to kick-start the important conversations that need to take place before they die.

The Ottawa-based team analyzed 1.3 million Ontario home care assessments between 2007 and 2014 to come up with what it calls RESPECT, or the Risk Evaluation for Support: Predictions for Elder-life in the Community Tool.

"You provide information about yourself and the more you provide, the more information we give back to you about when is it you [may] die," Dr. Peter Tanuseputro, a family doctor and researcher with the Bruyè​re and Ottawa Hospital research institutes, told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning this week.

"For 100, 1,000, 10,000 people like you with the same age, sex or chronic conditions, we give people the information that on average, people like them had three months, six months or nine months to live."

It's a new tool that can predict how much time elderly patients have left to live. Why an Ottawa doctor is using big data to answer that difficult question. 5:46

Tanuseputro said the tool is meant for patients who haven't yet discussed advance care options, and who may lose their mental capacity to make their own decisions as their condition worsens.

"Not many people get home visits, not many people seek palliative care," he said. "We think one of the reasons is not a lot of people talk about death and dying, and not a lot of people know when they're about to die."

He said the tool, which will launch soon, doesn't predict the exact date of death. Rather, it narrows it down to a general timeframe so those difficult yet vital conversations can take place while the patient is still lucid.

This tool falls under the health algorithm umbrella of Project Big Life, which also created a heart health calculator earlier this year.

With files from Ottawa Morning