Implementation Costs of Technology-Enhanced Transitional Palliative Care for Rural Caregivers

Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2024 Jan;41(1):38-44. doi: 10.1177/10499091231156145. Epub 2023 Feb 16.


Objectives: Compared to urban family caregivers (FCG), rural FCG experience greater burdens accessing coordinated care for their loved ones during and after hospitalization. The impact of technology-enhanced transitional palliative care (TPC) on caregiver outcomes is currently being evaluated in a randomized control trial. This study evaluates resource use and health system costs of this FCG-focused TPC intervention and potential Medicare reimbursement mechanisms.

Methods: Rural caregivers of hospitalized patients were randomized into an 8-week intervention consisting of video visits conducted by a registered nurse certified in palliative care, supplemented with phone calls and texts (n = 215), or attentional control. Labor costs were estimated for a registered nurse and compared to scenario analyses using a nurse practitioner or social worker wages. Medicare reimbursement scenarios included Transitional Care Management (TCM) and Chronic Care Management (CCM) CPT codes.

Results: In the base case, TPC cost was $395 per FCG facilitated by a registered nurse, compared to $337 and $585 if facilitated by a social worker or nurse practitioner, respectively. Mean Medicare reimbursement in the TCM-only scenario was $322 and $260 for high or moderate complexity patients, respectively. Reimbursement in the CCM only scenario was $348 and $274 for complex and non-complex patients, respectively. Reimbursement in the TCM+CCM scenario was $496 and $397, for high/complex and moderate/non-complex patients, respectively.

Conclusion: TPC is a feasible, low cost and sustainable strategy to enhance FCG support in rural areas. Potential reimbursement mechanisms are available to offset the costs to the health system for providing transitional palliative care to caregivers of patients recently hospitalized.

Keywords: care givers; implementation science; medicare; outcomes research; palliative care; rural.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Caregivers
  • Humans
  • Long-Term Care
  • Medicare
  • Palliative Care*
  • Transitional Care*
  • United States