Early palliative care consults reduce patients' length of stay and overall hospital costs


Advocate Aurora Health Hospice & Palliative Care, Research Institute


Background: Palliative care improves health outcomes and satisfaction and supports decision-making for patients and families during challenging times in their lives. Earlier referral for consults has demonstrated increased costs savings.

Hypothesis: Education proposing physicians order a palliative care consult within 3 days of patient hospital admission will decrease patient length of stay (LOS) and overall costs as well as expedite the transition to next level of care.

Design/Method: A descriptive retrospective cohort study was completed using de-identified data originally captured for a system-wide initiative at a large acute care hospital in Illinois. Hospitalists were selected as the pilot group and received education encouraging physicians to order palliative care consults within 3 days of patient admission. Non-hospitalists (control group) did not receive the education. All results were compared to a 3-month baseline period.

Results: A total of 711 patients were included in this study (367 baseline, 138 pilot, 206 controls). The baseline pre-consult LOS of 4.8 days was reduced to 3.7 days in the pilot group, representing a > 1 day decrease in the timing of palliative consult. The pilot demonstrated a direct cost savings of 26% over the 3-months pilot period. Additionally, a 2-day reduction in overall LOS was demonstrated in the pilot group compared to both the baseline and control groups.

Conclusions: This pilot demonstrated an ability to change the timing of new palliative care consults, resulting in direct cost savings and LOS reduction. These results demonstrated the need for a larger study to confirm these findings.

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