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Economic benefits of early palliative care for advanced cancer patients identified

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A collaborative research effort between researchers from Trinity College Dublin (Ireland) and the Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai Hospital (NY, USA) has, for the first time, provided strong evidence for the economic benefits of early palliative care intervention for individuals with advanced cancer diagnoses. The findings were reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The clinical benefits of early palliative care are well known; however, this new study has demonstrated that cost savings of up to 24% can be made with early access to expert palliative care decision-making assistance. It was observed that the early intervention decreased the length of hospital stay and the intensity of the stay for patients with advanced cancer.

The researchers studied the patient pathways of over 1000 individuals at five major hospitals in the USA and analyzed the costs of their care depending on whether they saw a specialist palliative care consultation team or received standard hospital care. It was discovered that when compared with no intervention, an intervention within 6 days was estimated to reduce costs by 14% and an intervention within 2 days led to a 24% reduction in the cost of hospital stay.

“Despite the known clinical benefits of earlier palliative care, there was little evidence on the association between treatment timing and economic benefits. Our findings show that alongside proven clinical benefits and outcomes for patients and their families there are also cost savings for the health system; a very important consideration in the context of an aging population and changing patterns of disease,” explained Peter May, of Trinity College and lead author of the study.

“It is also important to recognize that palliative care is not only for patients at end of life but can have substantial benefits for many patients living with serious illness. We will now look to apply our research findings to the Irish setting. Across Ireland there are excellent palliative care services for people living and dying with serious illness but there remains a high level of unmet need. High-quality research is essential to improving understanding of the potential benefits of palliative care for patients and their families, and for the wider health system.”

The specialist palliative care consultation was performed with a specialist-led team that assists in the treatment of seriously ill patients. This was carried out through the identification and treatment of symptoms, clarifying treatment options, establishing goals of care and advance plans, and helping patients and family members select treatments that match their goals.

Source: Trinity College Dublin news release

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