A new study has found that having multiple serious illnesses increased the risk of hospital and healthcare utilization for patients approaching the end of life.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Mayo Clinic studied 1,372 adults with average age of 84 who were living in a Midwestern area between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018. They examined the number of emergency department, hospital, and intensive care unit stays over the last six months and final 30 days of life.

The study found that for older adults with two or more serious illness diagnoses rates of hospitalizations and ICU visits were at least 1.5 times higher compared with older adults who only had one serious illness diagnosis during the last six months and final 30 days of life.

The study concluded that “having multiple serious illnesses increases the risk of healthcare utilization at the end of life.”

The study found that for cancer and dementia patients, rates of ED visits, hospitalizations and ICU stays were lower when they only had that condition alone and did have other serious illnesses. “However, for both cancer and dementia, an additional serious illness diagnosis increased the risk of utilization near the end of life to be more similar to the utilization observed in persons with other serious illness diagnoses,” the authors wrote.

“Older adults with multiple serious diagnoses may benefit from interventions focused on discussing care priorities,” they concluded.

The article, entitled “Prevalence of co-occurring serious illness diagnoses and association with health care utilization at the end of life,” was published in the May 20 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.