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Palliative Care Teams Cost-Saving Effect Is Larger For Cancer Patients With Higher Numbers Of Comorbidities

Author: Peter May, Melissa M. Garrido, J. Brian Cassel, Amy S. Kelley, Diane E. Meier, Charles Normand, Lee Stefanis, Thomas J. Smith, R. Sean Morrison
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Patients with multiple serious conditions account for a high proportion of health care spending. Such spending is projected to continue to grow substantially as a result of increased insurance eligibility, the ever-rising cost of care, the continued use of nonbeneficial high-intensity treatments at the end of life, and demographic changes. We evaluated the impact of palliative care consultation on hospital costs for adults with advanced cancer, excluding those with dementia. We found that compared to usual care, the receipt of a palliative care consultation within two days of admission was associated with 22 percent lower costs for patients with a comorbidity score of 2–3 and with 32 percent lower costs for those with a score of 4 or higher. Earlier consultation was also found to be systematically associated with a larger cost-saving effect for all subsamples defined by multimorbidity. Given ongoing workforce shortages, targeting early specialist palliative care to hospitalized patients with advanced cancer and higher numbers of serious concurrent conditions could improve care while complementing strategies to curb the growth of health spending.

Patients with multiple serious conditions account for a high proportion of health care spending. Such spending is projected to continue to grow substantially as a result of increased insurance eligibility, the ever-rising cost of care, the continued use of nonbeneficial high-intensity treatments at the end of life, and demographic changes. We evaluated the impact of palliative care consultation on hospital costs for adults with advanced cancer, excluding those with dementia. We found that compared to usual care, the receipt of a palliative care consultation within two days of admission was associated with 22 percent lower costs for patients with a comorbidity score of 2–3 and with 32 percent lower costs for those with a score of 4 or higher. Earlier consultation was also found to be systematically associated with a larger cost-saving effect for all subsamples defined by multimorbidity. Given ongoing workforce shortages, targeting early specialist palliative care to hospitalized patients with advanced cancer and higher numbers of serious concurrent conditions could improve care while complementing strategies to curb the growth of health spending.

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