Palliative care offers cost savings for health plans

Research shows that making palliative care available to a health plan’s sickest members can save thousands of dollars a year in inpatient costs and improve overall patient care, according to an op-ed in Managed Care Magazine.

Researchers with the Center to Advance Palliative Care highlighted several studies that show palliative care can limit the number of emergency department visits and lower overall costs for high risk patients who are prone to complications. Aetna’s Compassionate Care Program has seen an 81 percent decline in inpatient days, saving $12,000 per member. Other programs have shown sharp declines in ED usage and hospital readmissions.

The first step in making palliative care more accessible to managed care beneficiaries is to identify the sickest patients who might benefit from those services, according to the researchers. More comprehensive risk assessments along with screening tools can help managed care plans target members with the greatest need for palliative services. Other studies show nurses and pharmacists can play a key role in helping patients and families understand the benefits of palliative care.

Previous research supports the notion that palliative care can reduce costs and overall length of stay, particularly for cancer patients, leading health payers such as Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield to invest in comprehensive policy changes to make palliative care more accessible to members.  

- read the Managed Care viewpoint