Context: Despite the widespread recognition of the need for new models of care to better serve patients at the end-of-life, little evidence exists documenting the effectiveness of these models.
Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness of a palliative program for end-of-life care.
Design: A comparison group study was conducted between March 1999 and August 2000 comparing subjects enrolled in a palliative care intervention to those receiving usual care.
Setting: Home Health Department at Kaiser Permanente, TriCentral Service Area.
Subjects: During the course of the 2-year study, 558 subjects were enrolled. A subgroup of 300 patients who had died during the course of the study was selected for analysis; 161 were enrolled in the Palliative Care Program and 139 in the comparison group.
Intervention: The Kaiser Permanente Palliative Care Project is a multidisciplinary care management approach for home-based end of life care and treatment. The program is designed to facilitate the transition from acute to palliative care during the last 12 months of life with the goal of improving quality of life through the provision of symptom control and pain relief, emotional and spiritual support, and patient education.
Main outcome measures: Medical service use and satisfaction with services.
Results: Palliative care patients had increased satisfaction with services at 60 days after enrollment and significantly fewer emergency department visits, hospital days, skilled nursing facility days, and physician visits than those in the comparison group. Those enrolled in palliative care averaged a 45% decrease in costs as compared to usual care patients.
Conclusion: Through integrating palliative care into curative care practices earlier in the disease trajectory, chronically ill patients nearing the end of life report improved satisfaction with care and demonstrate less acute care use resulting in lower costs of care. In addition, patients enrolled in the palliative care program were more likely to die at home than comparison group patients.