Palliative care consultations reduce hospital costs


Background: Health care costs are on the rise, and previous studies have found that PCC can reduce hospital costs. Timing of consultation and allocation of palliative care intervention to a certain population of patients may reveal a more significant cost reduction.

Study design: Meta-analysis.

Setting: English peer reviewed articles.

Synopsis: A systematic search was performed for articles that provided economic evaluation of PCC for adult inpatients in acute care hospitals. Patients were included if they had least one of seven conditions: cancer, heart failure, liver failure, kidney failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, AIDS/HIV, or neurodegenerative conditions. Six data sets were reviewed, which included 133,118 patients altogether. There was a significant reduction in costs with PCC within 3 days of admission, regardless of the diagnosis (–$3,237; 95% confidence interval, –$3,581 to –$2,893). In the stratified analysis, the pooled meta-analysis suggested a statistically significant reduction in costs for both cancer (–$4,251; 95% CI, –$4,664 to –$3,837; P less than .001) and noncancer (–$2,105; 95% CI, –$2,698 to –$1,511; P less than .001) subsamples. In patients with cancer, the treatment effect was greater for patients with four or more comorbidities than it was for those with two or fewer.

Only six samples were evaluated, and causation could not be established because all samples had observational designs. There also was potential interpretation bias because the private investigator for each of the samples contributed to interpretation of the data and participated as an author. Overall evaluation of the economic value of PCC in this study was limited because analysis was focused to a single index hospital admission rather than including additional hospitalizations and outpatient costs.

Bottom line: Acute care hospitals might reduce hospital costs by increasing resources to allow palliative care consultations in patients with serious illnesses.

Citation: May P et al. Economics of palliative care for hospitalized adults with serious illness. JAMA Intern Med. 2018;178(6):820-9.

Dr. Libot is a hospitalist in the division of hospital medicine in the department of medicine at Loyola University Chicago, Maywood, Ill.

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