Objective and background: Few previous studies have explored how pediatric palliative care (PPC) influences hospital utilization. We evaluated this among PPC recipients in a single center.
Methods: This is a retrospective cohort study of 109 patients ≥2 years of age who received PPC consultation at a large quaternary children's hospital from April 2009 to September 2010. We assessed frequencies of hospital admissions and emergency department (ED) visits, use of intensive interventions, and hospital costs. Generalized estimating equations were used to compare outcomes in the two years before and after PPC consultation, stratifying by whether a patient survived two or more years following PPC enrollment.
Results: Median age at PPC consultation was 13 years (interquartile range 6-18); 56.0% were male (n = 61), 69.7% white non-Hispanic (n = 76). Fifty-nine percent (n = 64) of patients died during the study period. Overall, annual hospital admission rates decreased from 4.6 (95% confidence interval [CI] 4.0-5.4) before PPC consultation to 3.7 (95% CI 3.4-4.4) after (p = 0.025). Annual ED visits decreased from 0.9 (95% CI 0.7-1.2) to 0.6 (95% CI 0.4-0.8) (p = 0.030). Survivors had significantly decreased hospital admissions [rate ratio (RR) 0.57 (95% CI 0.45-0.73), p < 0.001] and ED visits [RR 0.33 (95% CI 0.20-0.54), p < 0.001]. Decedents had increased intensive care unit use (p = 0.029) but decreased operations (p = 0.002); survivors experienced no change in these outcomes after PPC consultation. Hospital costs remained stable for all (p = 0.929).
Discussion: PPC involvement may contribute to decreased hospital and ED use, without escalating costs. These outcomes are most evident in survivors. Hence, PPC may have a measurable long-term impact on hospital use in seriously ill children.
Keywords: hospital costs; hospital utilization; pediatric palliative care.