Challenges and possible solutions for long-term follow-up of patients surviving critical illness
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Introduction: Surviving critical illness can be life-changing and present new healthcare challenges for patients after discharge from hospital. Optimisation of recovery, rather than mere survival, is an important goal of intensive care. Observational studies have identified decreased quality of life and increased healthcare needs for survivors but loss to follow-up can be high with possible selection bias. Patients in need of support may therefore not be included in study results or allocated appropriate follow up support. Aim: To examine the frequency and reasons patients admitted to general ICUs who survive critical illness are excluded from study participation or lost to follow-up and consider the possible implications and solutions. Method: The literature review included searches of the MEDLINE, EMBASE, and CINAHL databases. Studies (2006-2010) were included if they described follow-up of survivors from general ICUs. Results: Ten studies were reviewed. Of the 3269 eligible patients, 14% died after hospital discharge, 27% declined, and 22% were lost to follow-up. Reasons for loss to follow-up included no response, inability to contact the patient, too ill or admitted to another facility. Conclusion: The most appropriate method of care follow-up has yet to be established but is likely to involve an eclectic model that tailors service provision to support individual patient needs. Identifying methods to minimise loss to follow-up may enhance interpretation of patients' recovery, lead to improvements in clinical practice and inform healthcare service decisions and policy.
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