Palliative care could save states millions

Using palliative care services can lower hospital costs for some of the sickest Medicaid patients and save states money, according to a new study published in the March issue of Health Affairs.

In fact, patients who received palliative care incurred $6,900 less in hospital costs than a corresponding group of patients who received usual care, note researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine who compared the treatment of hundreds of patients at four New York hospitals.

They estimate that such "team-based" care could save the state Medicaid program up to $250 million, if applied to all hospitals with 150 beds or more. With those kinds of savings, hospitals could refrain from getting rid of other important Medicaid services. Medicaid currently accounts for 16 percent of national healthcare spending.

In addition to helping states curb Medicaid costs, palliative care also can shorten hospital stays and reduce unnecessary hospital treatments and time spent in intensive care units.

According to the study, healthcare policymakers ought to focus on palliative care to rein in escalating healthcare costs. They should consider workforce incentives to attract and retain palliative care providers, recognition of palliative care in pay-for-performance models, and the inclusion of palliative care services in accountable care organizations.

For more:
- here's the Health Affairs press release
- check out the study abstract