A new study appearing this month in the journal Health Affairs lends additional support for the inclusion of palliative care in the treatment of patients with serious health conditions. The research found that patients with advanced cancer and other comorbidities who saw a palliative care team within 2 days of hospitalization realized significant savings in hospital costs, and that this benefit varied directly with the number of coexisting conditions presenting. The study was led by a team form Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who assert that theirs is the first demonstrate the connection between cost benefit and degree of illness.
Palliative care is a team-based specialty (incorporating medicine, nursing, social work and chaplaincy) that seeks to enhance quality of life for people with serious illnesses by adding a layer of support for patients, their families, and health care providers. The availability of palliative care programs has expanded rapidly, with over 90% of medium- to large-size hospitals in the US now offering the specialty. In this study, a group of patients with advanced cancer and other comorbidities who received palliative care consultation were compared with a second group who received usual care. The team found that early palliative care was associated with a 22 to 32% reduction in costs, and may also decrease unwanted aggressive end-of-life interventions. Read a news story about the study findings here. The study abstract may be read here.