Palliative Care reduces hospital stays and costs

Categories: Research.

As reported in the current issue of JAMA Internal Medicine: ” In this meta-analysis of 6 studies, hospital costs were lower for patients seen by a palliative care consultation team than for patients who not did not receive this care. The estimated association was greater for those with a primary diagnosis of cancer and those with more comorbidities compared with those with a noncancer diagnosis and those with fewer comorbidities.”

Researchers asked the question: What is the estimated association of palliative care consultation within 3 days of admission with direct hospital costs for adults with serious illness?

In looking at the challenge, study authors explain:
People with serious and complex medical illnesses account disproportionately for health care utilization, but this expenditure yields poor value. A quarter of Medicare beneficiaries die in acute care hospitals, and many experience intensive care unit admission and health care transitions in the last weeks of life, indicating high-intensity care inconsistent with patient preferences. Costs are increasing because of not only increasing prevalence of serious chronic disease but also increasing unit costs of medical care, including hospital care. Reforming a system originally designed to provide acute, episodic care is essential for its long-term sustainability.

Conclusion:
Palliative care consultation within 3 days of hospital admission is estimated to reduce cost of care for hospitalized adults with life-limiting illness, and this reduction in cost was larger for patients with cancer than for those with a noncancer diagnosis and for those with 4 or more comorbidities than for those with 2 or fewer. These results suggest that palliative care is more effective in changing patterns of care for patients with higher illness burden and that it may be possible for acute care hospitals to reduce costs by expanding palliative care capacity.

Read the article, “Economics of Palliative Care for Hospitalized Adults With Serious Illness,” on the JAMA Internal Medicine website.