BACKGROUND AND AIMS: The highest healthcare expenditures occur towards end of life. Costs relate to hospital admissions and investigations to diagnose, prognosticate and direct treatment. This Australian study compared cost of investigations in the last 72 h of life between an inpatient palliative care unit (PCU) and a tertiary hospital.
METHOD: We retrospectively reviewed fifty adult medical and surgical patients (admitted for >72 h and who died in hospital) from the PCU and referring tertiary centre, between March and July 2016. Patients in the emergency department, intensive care, medical assessment, paediatric and obstetric units were excluded. All patients had an acute resuscitation plan and were on the 'Care of the Dying' pathway.
RESULTS: Expenditure was less if palliative care were the primary caregivers, with statistically significant differences in amount of imaging (p < 0.001) and pathology (p < 0.001) ordered. There was no difference in microbiology (p = 0.172) and histology (p~1) ordered. Total cost of investigations for PCU patients was $1340.60 (4 of 50 patients), compared with $9467.78 (29 of 50 patients) in the tertiary hospital. PCU patients had longer length of stays (15.54 days vs 11.06 days) but cost less per bed day ($868.32 vs $878.79 respectively).
CONCLUSION: Inpatient PCUs are less likely to order investigations and are more cost-effective. A prospective study comparing an inpatient PCU, and patients at a tertiary centre, with and without consult liaison palliative care input, would be worthwhile to see if outcomes remain the same and if consult liaison palliative care affects the investigative burden.