Center to Advance Palliative Care

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Benefits to Hospitals

Hospitals benefit greatly from palliative care programs. Benefits range from financial, to structural, to providing better quality care to patients.

Lower costs for hospitals and payers

Developing palliative care programs in hospitals requires a relatively low start-up investment and can have an immediate impact on “outlier cases,” overall resource use and ICU utilization. Direct program costs are more than offset by the financial benefit to the hospital system.

Hospitals with palliative care programs find that:

  • Patients are transitioned to appropriate levels of care. This transition often reduces length of stay, especially in the ICU.
  • Proactive care plans expedite treatment. Hospitals can better plan daily resource use by following the agreed-upon care approach, often reducing costs for redundant, unnecessary, or ineffective tests and pharmaceuticals.
  • They maintain high quality of care while increasing capacity and reducing costs through shorter lengths of stay and lower ancillary and pharmacy costs.

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A systematic approach to caring for outlier patients

Palliative care programs provide a systematic approach to care for “outliers,” patients with the highest intensity needs within an inpatient population. After referral of these special-needs patients, a palliative care program helps the hospital match patient needs with appropriate health care resources.

Palliative care programs also help transition patients to optimal care settings at the patient's own pace and when medically advisable.

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Flexible programs support the primary care physician

Leading hospitals recognize the challenge of caring for the seriously ill in the busy hospital setting. Palliative care programs help address these issues by focusing on supporting the primary physician and nurse responsible for the care of these patients.

Palliative care teams provide physicians with:

  • Time by helping with care coordination and time-intensive patient-family communication about the goals of care.
  • Expertise in pain and symptom management, particularly for complicated cases where relief of symptoms is hard to achieve.
  • Support for the plan of care by helping coordinate the treating physician's orders, including safe and effective discharge planning.
  • Satisfied patients. Patients who receive palliative care as part of their overall medical treatment have a high level of satisfaction with their physicians, health care team, and hospital.

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Increased patient and family satisfaction

Providing patient-centered care increases patient and family satisfaction with hospital services and builds loyalty to the institution.

Meeting JCAHO Accreditation Standards

The cornerstone of palliative care is to ensure that patients do not suffer from uncontrolled symptoms. Accredited hospitals are committed to meeting national standards for effective pain treatment.

Palliative care programs help hospitals meet pain and other quality standards developed by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO). For more information on how a palliative care program can help hospitals meet JCAHO standards, see the 2004 Crosswalk.

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Easing of burdens on staff, increased retention

Given the complexities and fragmentation of today's health care system and the growing medical needs of the chronically ill, provision of well-communicated and highly coordinated care requires tremendous staff time and effort. Palliative care programs have been shown to help hospital staff provide this level of coordinated care for their patients, thus increasing staff job satisfaction and retention.

Palliative care programs assist staff by:

  • Providing patient-family case management and coordination.
  • Ensuring safe and effective management of complex and changing symptoms.
  • Supporting and assisting physicians, nurses, and social workers in their efforts to provide the highest quality bedside care to patients and their families.

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Meeting the needs of an aging population

Hospitals are filling rapidly with seriously ill and frail adults. By 2030, the number of people in the U.S. over the age of 85 is expected to double to 8.5 million.

To meet the needs of these patients, the hospital of the future must successfully deliver high-quality care for its most complex patients while remaining fiscally viable. Palliative care is essential to achieving the goal of excellent and cost-effective care for the growing population of people living with advanced illness.

Thanks to modern medicine, people with chronic and advanced illness are living longer. Palliative care provides continuity of care and a level of coordination that responds to the episodic and long-term nature of these illnesses. These seriously ill patients:

  • Deal with multiple chronic illnesses with which they will live for years, including heart and lung disease, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease.
  • Face a complex medical system, and struggle to coordinate their care among the host of doctors and specialists who treat them.
  • Want to stay as independent and healthy as possible, and need help making decisions, communicating with their health care providers, controlling pain, and receiving treatments to maximize their independence.
  • Need practical support for their personal care needs at home, including help for family caregivers and referrals to resources in their communities.

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