The costs and savings of a regional public palliative care program: the Catalan experience at 18 years

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2009 Jul;38(1):87-96. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2009.04.011.


Conceived as a World Health Organization demonstration project for public health initiatives at the end of life, the palliative care program in Catalonia illustrates the impact that similar initiatives may have in terms of cost savings for a regional health system. In a publicly funded and freely accessible health system, decreasing the number of hospital admissions, shortening the lengths of hospital stay, diminishing the frequency of emergency room consultations, shifting the use of acute hospital beds to palliative care beds for treating advanced disease inpatients, and substantially improving the use of opioids in the community are major determinants of the palliative care program's success. These features add to the opportunity the discipline offers to improve the quality of health care at the end of life. In this article, the information gathered over an 18-year trajectory of the program is summarized. Key features of the existing financial models used while developing palliative care in Catalonia are described, and the mechanisms by which palliative care may have contributed to increase savings for the health care system in end-of-life care, from euro3,000,000 in 1995 to euro8,000,000 in 2005, are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Cost Savings / economics*
  • Cost Savings / statistics & numerical data
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Health Care Costs / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Pain / economics*
  • Pain / epidemiology
  • Pain / prevention & control*
  • Palliative Care / economics*
  • Palliative Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Regional Medical Programs / economics*
  • Regional Medical Programs / statistics & numerical data
  • Spain / epidemiology