Early Palliative Care Leads to Significant Cost Reductions for Patients With Advanced Cancer


An early palliative care consultation may relieve financial burden up to 28% for patients with advanced cancer, according to a presentation at the 2017 Palliative and Supportive Care in Oncology Symposium (October 27-28, 2017; San Diego, CA).

Prior studies have shown that patients with advanced cancer may experience significant reductions in health care costs upon receiving palliative care with standard oncologic care. This association has yet to be fully researched.

At the Symposium, researchers presented a matched case-control study, including a total of 2576 patients with varying forms of lung, colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers. Those who received a palliative care consultation were paired with patients who did not. Researchers analyzed the costs of care before and after the consultations were evaluated as a measure of assessing the economic impact of the consultation.

Costs factors including inpatient, outpatient, home health care, hospice, and medical equipment were considered for the purpose of this study.

Initial results showed comparable health care costs between patients in either group; average costs within 30 days prior to receiving the palliative care consultation were $12,881 and $12,335 for patients who received the consultations and those who did not, respectively.


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However, long-term results showed a trend toward decreased overall costs for patients who received a consultation. After 120 days from study initiation, patients in the palliative care group had an average total cost of $6880, compared with  $9604 for patients who did not receive a consultation, which translated to a 28% difference in cost (P < .001).

Additionally, researchers reported that patients experienced who received a palliative care consultation earlier in the study were more likely to benefit from reduced health care costs. Those who received a consultation at least 4 weeks before death had their financial burden decreased by an average of $5362, compared with $975 for those who received a consultation 7 days or fewer prior to death.—Zachary Bessette