Palliative care offers return on investment

Palliative care programs aren't just good for patient care and satisfaction; it's good for business too, according to hospitals that have taken on the promising trend.

For instance, University of Rochester (N.Y.) Medical Center found palliative care intervention in 2007 saved 1,400 ICU patient days at an average of $450 a day, HealthLeaders Media reported.

But savings needn't be limited to large medical centers.

"Whether you work in a 400-bed hospital or a 100-bed hospital, a palliative care program is likely to pay for itself in both reduced costs and increased patient satisfaction," Raymond Hino, CEO of Mendocino Coast District Hospital in California, wrote in a previous Hospital Impact post.

Over the past decade, hospital palliative care has increased 138 percent, according to a Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) report. CAPC found that 92 percent of the surveyed seriously ill patients and their families said they would consider palliative care for a loved one, and 92 percent felt it is important to make such services available.

"Simply put, palliative care focuses on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain and stress of a serious illness. It is not the same as hospice care, which applies only to those patients in the final stages of terminal illness. Palliative care, in comparison, applies to people of all ages and is not restricted to terminal patients," Hino explained.

Palliative care, not to be confused with hospice care, can serve the population of patients not terminally ill but chronically ill that primary care physicians might not have the resources to handle. In addition, palliative care can address not only the frail elderly but also children with chronic conditions, as does the Iowa University Health System with its palliative care program for children. The program aims for wellness for the children and their families, HealthLeaders Media reported.

Keeping patients out of the hospital can offer savings for providers and patients.  

"We believe people want to stay functional in their homes," Bernard Hammes, director of Respecting Choices, an organization owned and operated by Gundersen Luthera in Wisconsin, said in the article. "It's not only better for the patient but also turns out to be cheaper for healthcare. You invest this time, it's relatively low-tech and low-cost care, and you prevent three days of hospitalization and you come out ahead."

For more information:
- here's the Hospital Impact blog post
- read the HealthLeaders Media article