Cost savings associated with inpatient palliative care

Categories: Research.

Research has shown that palliative care consultation services improve symptom control, patient satisfaction and quality of life – for both patients and family caregivers. Reductions in hospitalization costs have also been demonstrated.

Researchers sought out to examine the cost savings of a Palliative Care Unit by looking at data from the first two years of operation of the Mount Sinai Hospital Inpatient Palliative Care Unit (in New York City) to examine how patient-related costs were affected in days before and after transfer to the PCU. They also compared cost savings of the PCU to those of palliative care consultation teams.

Availability of palliative care in U.S. hospitals has more than doubled between 2001 to 2011 with more than 63% of hospitals with 50+ beds reporting availability of a palliative care team. Hospitals have also increased the number of palliative care units.

The Mount Sinai PCU admitted 1,107 patients in its first 24.5 months. In this period, a statistically significant decrease in average daily direct costs per patient was found. As the researchers report, “The mean of patients’ average cost per day was $687 less while on the PCU than before transfer to the PCU. Among patients who died in the hospital, average daily direct costs per patient in the days after transfer to PCU was $240 lower as compared with patients being followed by PCCS on the general hospital wards.”

There have been other studies demonstrating cost savings with both PCCS teams and PCUs in hospitals. This is the first study to show that PCUs provide more cost savings than PCCS for patients who die in the hospital. Researchers point out the implications for hospital administrators who are exploring the benefits of a PCU.

Details of the study have been published in the August 2015 issue of the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management. The article abstract is available online.

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