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Cost Savings from Palliative Care Teams and Guidance for a Financially Viable Palliative Care Program

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Keywords: Palliative care;hospital cost savings

Objectives: To quantify the cost savings of palliative care (PC) and identify differences in savings according to team structure, patient diagnosis, and timing of consult.

Data Sources: Hospital administrative records on all inpatient stays at five hospital campuses from January 2009 through June 2012.

Study Design: The analysis matched PC patients to non-PC patients (separately by discharge status) using propensity score methods. Weighted generalized linear model regressions of hospital costs were estimated for the matched groups.

Data Collection: Data were restricted to patients at least 18 years old with inpatient stays of between 7 and 30 days. Variables available included patient demographics, primary and secondary diagnoses, hospital costs incurred for the inpatient stay, and when/if the patient had a PC consult.

Principal Findings: We found overall cost savings from PC of $3,426 per patient for those dying in the hospital. No significant cost savings were found for patients discharged alive; however, significant cost savings for patients discharged alive could be achieved for certain diagnoses, PC team structures, or if consults occurred within 10 days of admission.

Conclusions: Appropriately selected and timed PC consults with physician and RN involvement can help ensure a financially viable PC program via cost savings to the hospital.

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