Background: Pediatric palliative care (PPC) aims to promote quality of life for children and their families through prevention and relief of physical and psychosocial symptoms. Little is known about how PPC/hospice services impact health care resource utilization in an uncertain financial landscape.
Objective: The study objective was to compare pediatric hospital health care resource utilization before and after enrollment in a home PPC/hospice program.
Design: The study was a retrospective administrative data analysis.
Setting/subjects: The study took place in a pediatric multispecialty hospital. Data were analyzed for 425 children ages 1-21 years who received home-based PPC/hospice services between 2000 and 2010.
Measurements: Hospitalization and emergency room (ER) administrative data were examined to determine whether or not there were changes in total number of hospital admissions, length of stay (LOS), and hospital billed charges before compared to after PPC/hospice exposure.
Results: There was no change in average total number of admissions pre-/post-PPC/hospice exposure; however, we found a significant increase in hospital/ER admissions for children with cancer diagnoses with longer exposure to PPC/hospice services. There were statistically significant reductions in LOS and total charges for hospital-based care; reductions were more pronounced in the noncancer group. Noncancer patients with at least six months of PPC exposure showed a significant decrease in total LOS from pre- to post-program admission by an average of 38 days, and an average decrease in total hospital charges of nearly $275,000.
Conclusion: Enrollment in home-based PPC/hospice was associated with lower hospital and ER LOS and total hospital charges as compared with the period prior to enrollment for children with noncancer diagnoses.