Background: Inpatient palliative care programs have demonstrated financial benefit for the hospital and improved quality of care for patients with advanced disease. Previous studies on this subject have focused on comparisons between palliative and traditional care. The financial and clinical effects of early versus late palliative care intervention are less well documented.
Objective: The aims of this study are to review the financial and quality outcomes that early palliative care intervention has on appropriate inpatients in the community hospital setting.
Materials and methods: This retrospective study analyzed 449 palliative care patients. The independent variable was days to palliative care consultation, characterized as early palliative care (≤3 days) and late palliative care (>3 days). Dependent variables included length of stay (LOS) and financial considerations. The two groups were further stratified according to case mix index, medical versus surgical, as well as certain disease groups, such as sepsis, congestive heart failure (CHF), and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exacerbation. The patient's functional status, measured by the Victoria Palliative Performance Scale (PPSv2) was calculated to determine if this variable independently influenced the timing of consultation.
Results: Patients in the early intervention group realized a reduction in LOS and a significant cost reduction. In the analysis of the entire group, the average LOS with early intervention was 6.09 days versus 16.5 days with late intervention (p < 0.001). The early intervention group demonstrated an earlier transition to comfort care, earlier referral to outpatient hospice, and did not have a negative effect on mortality. The patient's PPSv2 score did not influence the timing of intervention (p 0.25).
Conclusion: Early intervention with inpatient palliative care consultation correlated with financial benefit as well as earlier referral to more appropriate levels of care. These effects were achieved with minimal expense in a medium-sized community hospital.
Keywords: care; early; economic; impact; palliative.