Palliative care adds value, lowers costs in ACOs

Insurers may want to focus on palliative care for members participating in their accountable care organizations. Palliative care services provided to dying patients lower costs by reducing the use of  intensive care units (ICU), emergency departments and general hospital care, according to a Health Affairs blog post.

Palliative care reduces the length, number and duration of ICU stays, hospital readmission rates and use of the emergency department. Plus, patients who receive palliative care have lower costs per admission, the blog post noted.

Studies have shown that when adapted to specific high-risk patient needs, palliative care can reduce ED visits, improve overall care and drive down healthcare costs, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

ACOs "seek to improve quality and reduce costs for a defined population of patients, and palliative care offers value on both the quality and cost sides of the equation," Susan Block, chair of the Department of Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, wrote in the blog post.

What's more, palliative care can improve patients' quality of life, reduce their symptoms, boost emotional support and improve communication with their doctors, Block added.

The biggest challenge to including palliative care within ACO arrangements, however, is the lack of well-trained palliative care providers. Other barriers to providing hospice care include developing consistent and efficient measurement approaches across a provider system.

Private insurers running ACOs aren't the only ones considering palliative care improvements for high-quality, low-cost care: Legislation proposed last month would target how Medicare treats patients with chronic illnesses, with a focus on team-based care, chronic care management and palliative medicine, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the Health Affairs blog post

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