How Palliative Care Programs Can Reduce Hospitalizations and ER Utilization

Patients suffering from chronic illnesses may face a broad range of physical, spiritual, emotional, and financial problems. Several studies have shown that palliative care is a viable alternative to improve quality of life in patients with chronic illnesses, and also help them live longer. Palliative care programs have over the year proven their effectiveness for patients by have shown to help hospitals and health systems achieve the ultimate win-win healthcare scenario – high-quality, well-coordinated medical care at lower cost.

Steady, Rapid Growth

The number of U.S. hospitals offering palliative care services has been growing rapidly for over a decade. Researchers report that the number of programs in US hospitals with 50 or more beds increased from 658 in 2000 to over 1700 in 2012. One of the reasons for this increased growth is that Palliative Care programs help hospitals avoid costs in several ways.

  • By reducing the number the length of stays and ICU days.
  • Eliminate redundant and unproductive hospital services and supplies.

The average variable cost for an ICU day is approximately $1,000 more than cost of an acute day. And with many patients requiring ICU stays of more than 10 day. A palliative team can achieve substantial savings, by influencing the care of only a few dozen patients. A recent study conducted by CPMC palliative care consultative service on 282 patients, documented 2.2 million in annual savings, as well as improved clinical outcomes.

The study observed:

  • 33% reduction in mean daily costs
  • 30% reduction in mean length of stay
  • 5% overall lower daily costs
  • 86% reduction in pain scores
  • 64% reduction in dyspnea scores
  • 87% reduction in secretion scores

Palliative care is a growing area of interest for home health and hospice providers. Many chronic patients and other patients who are not yet “terminally ill” can benefit from palliative care. There is evidence showing that palliative care can reduce hospitalizations and ER utilization, both key metrics for providers in the world of value-based purchasing. However, these patients do not always fit into a category for Medicare or Medicaid purposes. This presents a number of challenges to providers looking to add palliative care to their mix.

For more on establishing a palliative care program and how it can reduce hospitalizations and ER utilization, join speaker, Robert W. Markette, Jr. CHC, in a live audio conference on Tue, Mar 15, 2016. During this session Robert will highlight issues related to establishing a palliative care program including payer sources, compliance concerns and licensure matters, as well as the use of physician services. In addition, the session will review dying patient hospice eligibility, as well as look at Palliative Care Coding.

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