Immunotherapy using one's own T cells that are genetically engineered to express a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) is an emerging therapy for hematologic and non-hematologic cancer. CAR T cell therapy has induced rapid and durable clinical responses in otherwise fatal cancers, but is associated with unique, possibly severe, toxicities. This Fast Facts discusses the basics of CAR T cell therapy for clinicians, approved indications, and toxicities.
OBJECTIVE: The aim of this project was to assess the value for money of a modified unit within a residential aged care facility (RACF) for people requiring palliative care at the end of life.
METHODS: A three-way comparison using a mixed-method costing was used to estimate the per day cost of the unit compared to care in a palliative care unit within a hospital and a standard RACF bed.
RESULTS: The cost of the unit was estimated at $242 per day (2015 Australian dollars). The palliative care hospital bed cost $1,664 per day. The cost of a standard RACF bed was $123 per day, indicating that an additional $120 per day is required to provide the higher level of care required by people with complex palliative care needs.
CONCLUSION: A modified RACF unit could provide substantial cost savings to the health budget for selected complex palliative care patients.
The number of residents in long-term care facilities (LTCFs) in need of palliative care is growing in the Western world. Therefore, it is foreseen that significantly higher percentages of budgets will be spent on palliative care. However, cost-effectiveness analyses of palliative care interventions in these settings are lacking. Therefore, the objective of this paper was to assess the cost-effectiveness of the ‘PACE Steps to Success’ intervention. PACE (Palliative Care for Older People) is a 1-year palliative care programme aiming at integrating general palliative care into day-to-day routines in LTCFs, throughout seven EU countries.
Objective: The aim of this study was to assess the clinical, economic and personal impacts of the nurse practitioner-led Sydney Adventist Hospital Community Palliative Care Service (SanCPCS)
Methods: Parallel economic analysis of usual care was conducted prospectively with patients from the enhanced SanCPCS. A convenient retrospective sample from the initial service was used to determine the impact of the enhanced service on patient care. A time series survey was used with patients and carers from within the expanded service group in order to measure patient outcomes and values as they approached death. Results: Patients of the SanCPCS were less likely to die in hospital and had fewer hospital admissions. In addition, the service halved the estimated hospitalisation cost per patient, but the length of hospital stay was not affected by the service. The SanCPCS was more beneficial for women in terms of fewer hospital admissions and lower costs. Patients’ choices regarding place of care and death and what was ‘important’ to them changed over time. For instance, patients tended to prefer being at home as they approached death, and being pain free doubled in importance.
Conclusions: Nurse practitioner-led community palliative care services have the potential to result in significant economic and personal benefits for patients and their families in need of such care. What is known about the topic? National trends show an emphasis on community services with the aim of promoting and supporting the choice of dying at home, and this coincides with drives to reduce hospital costs and length of stay. Community-based palliative care services may offer substantial economic and clinical benefits. What does this paper add? The SanCPCS was the first nurse practitioner-led community-based palliative care service in Australia. The expansion of this service led to significantly fewer admissions and deaths in hospital, and halved the estimated hospitalisation cost per patient. What are implications for practitioners? Nurse practitioner-led models for care in the out-patient or community setting are a logical direction for palliative services through the engagement of specialised providers uniquely trained to support, nurture, guide and educate patients and their carers.
Objective: End-of-life cancer care imposes a heavy financial burden on patients, their families, and their health insurers. The aim of this study was to explore the 8-year (2004-2011) trends in health-care costs for Taiwanese cancer decedents in their last month of life and, specifically, to assess the association of these trends with hospice care.
Materials and Methods: We conducted a population-based longitudinal study and analyzed data from Taiwan's National Health Insurance Research Database. The data consisted of not only claims information - costs of hospitalization and outpatient department visits - but also the associated patient characteristics, catastrophic illness status, hospice patient designation, and insurance system exit date (the proxy for death).
Results: A total of 11,104 cancer decedents were enrolled, and 2144 (19.3%) of these patients received hospice care. The rate of hospice service use increased from 14.9% to 21.5% over 8 years. From 2004 to 2011, the mean health-care cost per day in the last month of life increased 8.2% (from US$93 ± $108 in 2004 to US$101 ± $110 in 2011; P = 0001). We compared three groups of patients who received hospice care for more than 1 month (long-H group), received hospice care for 30 days or less (short-H group), and did not receive hospice care (non-H group). Compared to non-H group, long-H group had a significantly lower mean health-care cost per day during their last month of life (US$85.7 ± 57.3 vs. US$102.4 ± 120) (P < 0001). Furthermore, compared to short-H and non-H groups, patients in the long-H group had lower probabilities of receiving chemotherapy and visiting the emergency department more than once. They also incurred lower health-care costs (US$77.1 ± 58.1 vs. US$92.2 ± 56.0 for short-H group and US$102.4 ± 120 for non-H group) (P < 0001).
Conclusion: Health-care costs in the last month of life are increasing over time in Taiwan. Nonetheless, health-care costs for patients receiving hospice can be as much as 16.3% lower than patients not receiving hospice care. Patients receiving hospice care for more than 30 days also had lower health-care costs than those receiving care for <30 days.
Context: Palliative care programs are typically evaluated using observational data, raising concerns about selection bias.
Objective: To quantify selection bias due to observed and unobserved characteristics in a palliative care demonstration program.
Methods: Program administrative data and 100% Medicare claims data in two-states and a 20% sample in eight-states (2013-2017). The sample included 2983 Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries age 65+ participating in the palliative care program and three matched cohorts: 1) regional 2) two-states and 3) eight-states. Confounding due to observed factors was measured by comparing patient baseline characteristics. Confounding due to unobserved factors was measured by comparing days of follow-up, and six-month and one-year mortality rates.
Results: After matching, evidence for observed confounding included differences in observable baseline characteristics including race, morbidity and utilization. Evidence for unobserved confounding included significantly longer mean follow-up in the regional, two-state, and eight-state comparison cohorts, with 207 (p<.001), 192 (p<.001), and 187 (p<.001) days, respectively, compared to the 162 days for the palliative care cohort. The palliative care cohort had higher 6 month and 1-year mortality rates of 53.5% and 64.5% compared to 43.5% and 48.0% in the regional comparison, 53.4% and 57.4% in the two-state comparison, and 55.0% and 59.0% in the eight-state comparison.
Conclusions: This case study demonstrates that selection of comparison groups impacts the magnitude of measured and unmeasured confounding, which may change effect estimates. The substantial impact of confounding on effect estimates in this study raises concerns about the evaluation of novel serious illness care models in the absence of randomization. We present key lessons learned for improving future evaluations of palliative care using observational study designs.
While hospitals remain the most common place of death in many western countries, specialised palliative care (SPC) at home is an alternative to improve the quality of life for patients with incurable cancer. We evaluated the cost-effectiveness of a systematic fast-track transition process from oncological treatment to SPC enriched with a psychological intervention at home for patients with incurable cancer and their caregivers.
Background: Portable Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) are increasingly utilized to assist patients approaching the end of life in documenting goals of care. We evaluated the association of POLST, resource utilization, and costs to 1 year among injured older adults requiring emergency services.
Methods: This was a retrospective cohort of injured older adults =65 years with continuous Medicare fee-for-service coverage transported by emergency medical services (EMS) in 2011 across 4 counties in Oregon. Data sources included EMS, Medicare claims, vital statistics, and state POLST, inpatient and trauma registries. Outcomes included hospital admission, receipt of aggressive medical interventions, costs, and hospice use. We matched patients on patient characteristics and comorbidities to control for bias.
Results: We included 2116 patients of which 484 (22.9%) had a POLST form prior to 911 contact. Of POLST patients, 136 (28.1%) had orders for full treatment, 194 (40.1%) for limited interventions, and 154 (31.8%) for comfort measures. There were no significant associations for care during the index event. However, in the year after the index event, patients with care limitations had higher adjusted hospice use (limited interventions OR 1.7 [95% CI: 1.2–2.6]; comfort OR, 2.0 [95% CI: 1.3–3.0]) and lower adjusted post-discharge costs (no POLST, $32,399 [95% CI: 30,041–34,756]; limited interventions, $18,729 [95% CI: 12,913–24,545]; and comfort $15,593 [95% CI: 12,091–19,095]). There were no significant associations for all other outcomes.
Conclusions: Care limitations specified in POLST forms among injured older adults transported by EMS are associated with increased use of hospice and decreased costs to 1 year.
Background: Emergency department (ED) initiated palliative consultation impacts downstream care utilization. Various admission consult triggers have been proposed without clear best practice or outcomes.
Objective: This 18-month single-center study evaluated the clinical, operational, and financial impact of simplified admission triggers for ED-initiated palliative consults as compared to downstream Floor and intensive care unit (ICU) palliative consults initiated per usual practice.
Methods: We distilled ED admission triggers into three criteria to ensure bedside actionability and sustainability: (1) end-stage illness, (2) functional limitation, and (3) clinician would not be surprised if the patient died this hospitalization. Eligible patients met all criteria, and received consultation within 24 hours of admission. We compared ED-initiated consults against Floor and ICU consults from March 1, 2018, to September 30, 2019, with matched cohort analysis to evaluate financial outcomes.
Results: While overall palliative consult volume remained intentionally steady, the proportion of ED-initiated consults significantly increased (7% vs. 19%, p < 0.001). ED consistently comprised 15–25% of all monthly palliative consults. Compared with Floor, ED had similar ED length of stay (LOS) and inpatient mortality. Among live discharges, ED were more likely to be referred to hospice than Floor (59% vs. 47%, p = 0.24) or ICU (59% vs. 34%, p = 0.02). In a matched cohort analysis, ED demonstrated median cost avoidance of $9,082 per patient versus Floor ($5,578 vs. $14,660, p < 0.001) and $15,138 per patient versus ICU ($5,578 vs. $20,716, p < 0.001). ED had significantly shorter median LOS before consult than Floor (0 vs. 3 days, p < 0.001) or ICU (0 vs. 3 days, p < 0.001), which did not differ between live discharges or inpatient deaths. Overall hospital LOS was disproportionately shorter for ED, with a net difference-in-differences of 1–3.5 days compared to Floor and ICU.
Conclusions: Simple ED admission triggers to expedite palliative engagement are associated with a 50–75% reduction in both hospital LOS and costs when compared against usual palliative consultation practice. ED initiation reduces both lead time before consultation and subsequent downstream hospitalization length.
PURPOSE: To examine differential associations between health literacy (HL) and end-of-life (EOL) care expenditures by rurality.
METHODS: This cross-sectional study included all urban and rural counties in the United States. County-level HL data were estimated using 2010 US Census and 2011 American Community Surveys data; EOL expenditures in 2010 were derived from the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care database. Hierarchical generalized linear regressions were used to assess associations between HL and EOL care, controlling for county-level characteristics and focusing on rurality (with areas classified as urban, rural micropolitan, or rural noncore).
FINDINGS: Of 3,137 US counties, 100 (3.2%) counties where 7.6 million Americans live had low HL (LHL). Counties with LHL had significantly higher average expenditures in the last 6 months of life and during terminal hospitalization than counties with high HL (HHL) (both P < .001). There was a statistically significant interaction between HL and rurality (P < .001). EOL expenditures were significantly higher in LHL counties than HHL counties in urban areas, while no such relationship appeared in rural areas. Average estimated EOL expenditures among LHL counties decreased by rurality ($16,953, $14,939, and $12,671 for urban, rural micropolitan, and rural noncore areas, respectively), while average estimated expenditures in HHL counties were around $14,000 in each of these areas.
CONCLUSIONS: HL and EOL expenditures were inversely associated with urban America but unrelated to rural areas. Counties with HHL had constant expenditures regardless of rurality. Interventions targeting HL may help reduce EOL expenditures and rural-urban disparities in EOL care.
BACKGROUND: Disparities in the utilization, expenditures, and quality of care by insurance types have been well documented. Such comparisons have yet to be investigated in end-of-life (EOL) settings in China, where public insurance covers over 95% of the Chinese population. This study examined the associations between health insurance and EOL care in the last six months of life: outpatient visits, emergency department (ED) visits, inpatient services, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, expenditures, and place of death among the cancer patients.
METHODS: A total of 398 patients diagnosed with cancer who survived more than 6 months after diagnosis and died from July 2015 to June 2017 in urban Yichang, China, were included. Descriptive analysis and multivariate regression models were used to investigate the bivariate and independent associations, respectively, between health insurance with EOL healthcare utilization, expenditures and place of death.
RESULTS: Urban Employee Basic Medical Insurance (UEBMI) beneficiaries visited EDs more frequently than Urban Resident-based Basic Medical Insurance (URBMI) and New Rural Cooperative Medical Scheme (NRCMS) beneficiaries (marginal effects [95% Confidence Interval]: 2.15 [1.81-2.48] and 1.92 [1.59-2.26], respectively). NRCMS and UEBMI beneficiaries had more hospitalizations than URBMI beneficiaries (1.01 [0.38-1.64] and 0.71 [0.20-1.22], respectively). Compared to URBMI beneficiaries, NRCMS beneficiaries and UEBMI beneficiaries had ¥15,722 and ¥43,241 higher expenditures. Similarly, UEBMI beneficiaries were most likely to die in hospitals, followed by NRCMS (UEBMI vs. NRCMS: 0.23 [0.11-0.36]) and URBMI (UEBMI vs. URBMI: 0.67 [0.57-0.78]) beneficiaries.
CONCLUSIONS: The disproportionately lower utilization of EOL care among NRCMS and URBMI beneficiaries, compared to UEBMI beneficiaries, raised concerns regarding quality of EOL care and financial burdens of NRCMS and URBMI beneficiaries. Purposive hospice care intervention might be warranted to address EOL care for these beneficiaries in China.
BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVE: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) reimburses clinicians for advance care planning (ACP) discussions with Medicare patients. The objective of the study was to examine the association of CMS-billed ACP visits with end-of-life (EOL) healthcare utilization.
DESIGN: Patient-level analyses of claims for the random 20% Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) sample of decedents in 2017. To account for multiple comparisons, Bonferroni adjusted P value <.008 was considered statistically significant.
SETTING: Nationally representative sample of Medicare FFS beneficiaries.
PARTICIPANTS: A total of 237,989 Medicare FFS beneficiaries who died in 2017 and included those with and without a billed ACP visit during 2016–17.
INTERVENTION: The key exposure variable was receipt of first billed ACP (none, >1 month before death).
MEASUREMENTS: Six measures of EOL healthcare utilization or intensity (inpatient admission, emergency department [ED] visit, intensive care unit [ICU] stay, and expenditures within 30 days of death, in-hospital death, and first hospice within 3 days of death). Analyses was adjusted for age, race, sex, Charlson Comorbidity Index, expenditure by Dartmouth hospital referral region (high, medium, or low), and dual eligibility.
RESULTS: Overall, 6.3% (14,986) of the sample had at least one billed ACP visit. After multivariable adjustment, patients with an ACP visit experienced significantly less intensive EOL care on four of six measures: hospitalization (odds ratio [OR] = .77; 95% confidence interval [CI] = .74–.79), ED visit (OR = .77; 95% CI = .75–.80), or ICU stay (OR = .78; 95% CI = .74–.81) within a month of death; and they were less likely to die in the hospital (OR = .79; 95% CI = .76–.82). There were no differences in the rate of late hospice enrollment (OR = .97; 95% CI = .92–1.01; P = .119) or mean expenditures ($242.50; 95% CI = -$103.63 to $588.61; P = .169).
CONCLUSION: Billed ACP visits were relatively uncommon among Medicare FFS decedents, but their occurrence was associated with less intensive EOL utilization. Further research on the variables affecting hospice use and expenditures in the EOL period is recommended to understand the relative role of ACP.
Importance: Palliative care has shown benefits in reducing symptom intensity and quality of life in patients with advanced cancer. However, high-quality evidence to support palliative care policy and service developments for patients with long-term neurological conditions (LTNCs) is lacking.
Objective: To determine the effectiveness of a short-term integrated palliative care (SIPC) intervention for people with LTNCs.
Design, Setting, and Participants: Multicenter, phase 3, randomized clinical trial conducted from April 1, 2015, to November 30, 2017, with a last follow-up date of May 31, 2018, in 7 UK hospitals with both neurology and palliative care services. A total of 535 patients with LTNC were assessed for eligibility and 350 were randomized. Inclusion criteria were patients 18 years or older with any advanced stage of multiple sclerosis, motor neuron disease, idiopathic Parkinson disease multiple system atrophy, or progressive supranuclear palsy. Data were analyzed from November 2018 to March 2019.
Interventions: Patients were randomized 1:1 using minimization method to receive SIPC (intervention, n = 176) or standard care (control, n = 174).
Main Outcomes and Measures: Primary outcome was change in 8 key palliative care symptoms from baseline to 12-weeks, measured by the Integrated Palliative care Outcome Scale for neurological conditions. Secondary outcomes included change in the burden of other symptoms, health-related quality of life, caregiver burden, and costs. Data were collected and analyzed blindly by intention to treat.
Results: A total of 350 patients (mean [SD] age 67  years; years since diagnosis, 12 [range, 0-56]; 51% men; 49% requiring considerable assistance) with an advanced stage of LTNC were recruited, along with informal caregivers (n = 229). There were no between-group differences in primary outcome (effect size, -0.16; 95% CI, -0.37 to 0.05), any other patient-reported outcomes, adverse events, or survival. Although there was more symptom reduction in the SIPC group in relation to mean change in primary outcome, the difference between the groups was not statistically significant (-0.78; 95% CI, -1.29 to -0.26 vs -0.28; 95% CI, -0.82 to 0.26; P = .14). There was a decrease in mean health and social care costs from baseline to 12 weeks -$1367 (95% CI, -$2450 to -$282) in the SIPC group and -653 (95% CI, -$1839 to -$532) in the control group, but this difference was not statistically significant (P = .12). SIPC was perceived by patients and caregivers as building resilience, attending to function and deficits, and enabling caregivers.
Conclusions and Relevance: In this study, SIPC was not statistically significantly different from standard care for the patient-reported outcomes. However, SIPC was associated with lower cost, and in qualitative analysis was well-received by patients and caregivers, and there were no safety concerns. Further research is warranted.
Advance care planning is considered an important part of high-quality end-of-life care. Its cost-effectiveness is currently unknown. In this study, we explore the cost-effectiveness of a strategy, in which advance care planning is offered systematically to older people at the end-of-life compared with standard care. We conducted decision-analytic modelling. The perspective was health and social care and the time horizon was 1 year. Outcomes included were quality-adjusted life years as they referred to the surviving carers. Data sources included published studies, national statistics and expert views. Average total cost in the advance care planning versus standard care group was £3,739 versus £3,069. The quality-adjusted life year gain to carers was 0.03 for the intervention in comparison with the standard care group. Based on carer's health-related quality-of-life, the average cost per quality-adjusted life year was £18,965. The probability that the intervention was cost-effective was 55% (70%) at a cost per quality-adjusted life year threshold of £20,000 (£30,000). Conducting cost-effectiveness analysis for advance care planning is challenging due to uncertainties in practice and research, such as a lack of agreement on how advance care planning should be provided and by whom (which influences its costs), and about relevant beneficiary groups (which influences its outcomes). However, even when assuming relatively high costs for the delivery of advance care planning and only one beneficiary group, namely, family carers, our analysis showed that advance care planning was probably cost-effective.
Background: Palliative Care Day Services (PCDS) offer supportive care to people with advanced, progressive illness who may be approaching the end of life. Despite the growth of PCDS in recent years, evidence of their costs and effects is scarce. It is important to establish the value of such services so that health and care decision-makers can make evidence-based resource allocation decisions. This study examines and estimates the costs and effects of PCDS with different service configurations in three centres across the UK in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Methods: People who had been referred to PCDS were recruited between June 2017 and September 2018. A pragmatic before-and-after descriptive cohort study design analysed data on costs and outcomes. Data on costs were collected on health and care use in the 4 weeks preceding PCDS attendance using adapted versions of the Client Service Receipt Inventory (CSRI). Outcomes, cost per attendee/day and volunteer contribution to PCDS were also estimated. Outcomes included quality of life (MQOL-E), health status (EQ-5D-5L) and capability wellbeing (ICECAP-SCM).
Results: Thirty-eight attendees were recruited and provided data at baseline and 4 weeks (centre 1: n = 8; centre 2: n = 8, centre 3: n = 22). The cost per attendee/day ranged from £121–£190 (excluding volunteer contribution) to £172–£264 (including volunteer contribution) across the three sites. Volunteering constituted between 28 and 38% of the total cost of PCDS provision. There was no significant mean change at 4 week follow-up from baseline for health and care costs (centre 1: £570, centre 2: -£1127, centre 3: £65), or outcomes: MQOL-E (centre 1: - 0.48, centre 2: 0.01, centre 3: 0.24); EQ-5D-5L (centre 1: 0.05, centre 2: 0.03, centre 3: - 0.03) and ICECAP-SCM (centre 1:0.00, centre 2: - 0.01, centre 3: 0.03). Centre costs variation is almost double per attendee when attendance rates are held constant in scenario analysis.
Conclusions: This study highlights the contribution made by volunteers to PCDS provision. There is insufficient evidence on whether outcomes improved, or costs were reduced, in the three different service configurations for PCDS. We suggest how future research may overcome some of the challenges we encountered, to better address questions of cost-effectiveness in PCDS.
Objectives: We evaluated healthcare cost differences at the end of life (EOL) between language regions in Switzerland, accounting for a comprehensive set of variables, including treatment intensity.
Methods: We evaluated 9716 elderly who died in 2014 and were insured at Helsana Group, with data on final cause of death provided by the Swiss Federal Statistical Office. EOL healthcare costs and utilization, = 1 ICU admission and 10 life-sustaining interventions (cardiac catheterization, cardiac assistance device implantation, pulmonary artery wedge monitoring, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, gastrostomy, blood transfusion, dialysis, mechanical ventilation, intravenous antibiotics, cancer chemotherapies) reimbursed by compulsory insurance were examined.
Results: Taking into consideration numerous variables, relative cost differences decreased from 1.27 (95% CI 1.19–1.34) to 1.06 (CI 1.02–1.11) between the French- and German-speaking regions, and from 1.12 (CI 1.03–1.22) to 1.08 (CI 1.02–1.14) between the Italian- and German-speaking regions, but standardized costs still differed. Contrary to individual factors, density of home-care nurses, treatment intensity, and length of inpatient stay explain a substantial part of these differences.
Conclusions: Both supply factors and health-service provision at the EOL vary between Swiss language regions and explain a substantial proportion of cost differences.
BACKGROUND: Results of previous studies demonstrated that high-intensity end-of-life (EOL) care improves neither cancer patients' survival nor quality of life. Our objective was to assess the incidence of and factors associated with aggressiveness of care during the last 30 days of life (DOL) of lung cancer (LC) patients and the impacts of aggressiveness of care in EOL-care costs.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: Using French national hospital database, all patients with LC who died between January 1, 2010, and December 31, 2011, or between January 1, 2015, and January 31, 2016, were included. EOL-care aggressiveness was assessed using the following criteria: chemotherapy administered within the last 14 DOL; more than one hospitalization within the last 30 DOL; admission to the intensive care unit within the last 30 DOL; and palliative care initiated < 3 days before death. Expenditures were limited to direct costs, from a health care payer's perspective.
RESULTS: Among 79,746 adult LC patients identified; 57% had at least one indicator of EOL-care aggressiveness (49% repeated hospitalizations, 12% intensive care unit admissions, 9% chemotherapy, 5% palliative care). It increased significantly between the 2 periods (56% vs. 58%, P < .001). Young age, male sex, shorter time since diagnosis, comorbidities, no malnutrition, type of care facility other than general hospital, social deprivation, and low-density population were independently associated with having one or more indicator of aggressive EOL care. The mean EOL cost was €8152 ± 5117 per patient, but the cost was significantly higher for patients with at least one EOL-care aggressiveness criterion (€9480 vs. €6376, P < .001).
CONCLUSION: In France, a majority of LC patients had at least one criterion of aggressive EOL care that had a major economic impact on the health care system.
Palliative radiotherapy (PRT) makes up about half of all courses delivered in radiotherapy departments. It is effective in the management of common complications of cancer and is relatively inexpensive. About one third of cancer patients receive PRT within the last 2 years of life. One quarter of all patients who receive radiotherapy will undergo a second or subsequent course, mostly for palliative indications. There is considerable variation in practice, both within and between jurisdictions. This has been attributed to inconsistencies in guidelines, physician variation and differing financial incentives. Because of the widespread use of hypofractionation, variation in PRT fractionation has a lower effect on departmental capacity than variation in radical and adjuvant treatments. Excessive fractionation places an unnecessary burden on frail patients at the end of their lives and uses scarce healthcare resources. With appropriate case selection, the increased cost of fractionation or more conformal treatments can be justified where clinical benefit is expected.
Background: At a population level, conversations between clinicians and seriously ill patients exploring patients’ goals and values can drive high-value healthcare, improving patient outcomes and reducing spending.
Methods: We examined the impact of a quality improvement intervention to drive better communication on total medical expenses in a high-risk care management program. We present our analysis of secondary expense outcomes from a prospective implementation trial of the Serious Illness Care Program, which includes clinician training, coaching, tools, and system interventions. We included patients who died between January 2014 and September 2016 who were selected for serious illness conversations, using the “Surprise Question,” as part of implementation of the program in fourteen primary care clinics.
Results: We evaluated 124 patients and observed no differences in total medical expenses between intervention and comparison clinic patients. When comparing patients in intervention clinics who did and did not have conversations, we observed lower average monthly expenses over the last 6 ($6297 vs. $8,876, p = 0.0363) and 3 months ($7263 vs. $11,406, p = 0.0237) of life for patients who had conversations.
Conclusions: Possible savings observed in this study are similar in magnitude to previous studies in advance care planning and specialty palliative care but occur earlier in the disease course and in the context of documented conversations and a comprehensive, interprofessional case management program.
Implications: Programs designed to drive more, earlier, and better serious illness communication hold the potential to reduce costs.
Objectives: Hospice use reduces costly aggressive end-of-life (EOL) care (eg, repeated hospitalizations, intensive care unit care, and emergency department visits). Nevertheless, associations between hospice stays and EOL expenditures in prior research have been inconsistent. We examined the differential associations between hospice stay duration and EOL expenditures among newly diagnosed patients with cancer, congestive heart failure (CHF), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and dementia.
Methods: In the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results–Medicare data, we identified 240 246 decedents diagnosed with the aforementioned conditions during 2001 to 2013. We used zero-inflated negative binomial regression models to examine the differential associations between hospice length of services and EOL expenditures incurred during the last 90, 180, and 360 days of life.
Results: For the last 360 days of expenditures, hospice stays beyond 30 days were positively associated with expenditures for decedents with COPD, CHF, and dementia but were negatively associated for cancer decedents (all P<.001) after adjusting for demographic and medical covariates. In contrast, for the last 90 days of expenditures, hospice stay duration and expenditures were consistently negatively associated for each of the 4 patient disease groups.
Conclusions: Longer hospice stays were associated with lower 360-day expenditures for cancer patients but higher expenditures for other patients. We recommend that Medicare hospice payment reforms take distinct disease trajectories into account. The relationship between expenditures and hospice stay length also depended on the measurement duration, such that measuring expenditures for the last 6 months of life or less overstates the cost-saving benefit of lengthy hospice stays.