The Cost-Effectiveness of Palliative Care: Insights from the PAL-HF Trial

J Card Fail. 2021 Mar 14;S1071-9164(21)00114-7. doi: 10.1016/j.cardfail.2021.02.019. Online ahead of print.


Background: In a randomized control trial, Palliative Care in Heart Failure (PAL-HF) improved heart failure-related quality of life, though cost-effectiveness remains unknown. The aim of this study was to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of the PAL-HF trial, which provided outpatient palliative care to patients with advanced heart failure.

Methods and results: Outcomes for usual care and PAL-HF strategies were compared using a Markov cohort model over 36 months from a payer perspective. The model parameters were informed by PAL-HF trial data and supplemented with meta-analyses and Medicare administrative data. Outcomes included hospitalization, place of death, Medicare expenditures, quality-adjusted life years (QALYs), and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios. Simulated mortality rates were the same for PAL-HF and usual care cohorts, at 89.7% at 36 months. In the base case analysis, the PAL-HF intervention resulted in an incremental gain of 0.03 QALYs and an incremental cost of $964 per patient for an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of $29,041 per QALY. In 1-way sensitivity analyses, an intervention cost of up to $140 per month is cost effective at $50,000 per QALY. Of 1000 simulations, the PC intervention had a 66.1% probability of being cost effective at a $50,000 willingness-to-pay threshold assuming no decrease in hospitalization. In a scenario analysis, PAL-HF decreased payer spending through reductions in noncardiovascular hospitalizations.

Conclusions: These results from this single-center trial are encouraging that palliative care for advanced heart failure is an economically attractive intervention. Confirmation of these findings in larger multicenter trials will be an important part of developing the evidence to support more widespread implementation of the PAL-HF palliative care intervention.

Keywords: Heart failure; cost effectiveness; palliative care; randomized control trial.