The association between palliative care team consultation and hospital costs for patients with advanced cancer: An observational study in 12 Dutch hospitals

Arianne Brinkman-Stoppelenburg, Suzanne Polinder, Branko F. Olij, Barbara van den Berg, Nicolette Gunnink, Mathijs P. Hendriks, Yvette M. van der Linden, Daan Nieboer, Annemieke van der Padt-Pruijsten, Liesbeth A. Peters, Brenda Roggeveen, Frederiek Terheggen, Sylvia Verhage, Maurice J. van der Vorst, Ingrid Willemen, Yvonne Vergouwe, Agnes van der Heide

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Background: Early palliative care team consultation has been shown to reduce costs of hospital care. The objective of this study was to investigate the association between palliative care team (PCT) consultation and the content and costs of hospital care in patients with advanced cancer. Material and Methods: A prospective, observational study was conducted in 12 Dutch hospitals. Patients with advanced cancer and an estimated life expectancy of less than 1 year were included. We compared hospital care during 3 months of follow-up for patients with and without PCT involvement. Propensity score matching was used to estimate the effect of PCTs on costs of hospital care. Additionally, gamma regression models were estimated to assess predictors of hospital costs. Results: We included 535 patients of whom 126 received PCT consultation. Patients with PCT had a worse life expectancy (life expectancy <3 months: 62% vs. 31%, p <.01) and performance status (p <.01, e.g., WHO status higher than 2:54% vs. 28%) and more often had no more options for anti-tumour therapy (57% vs. 30%, p <.01). Hospital length of stay, use of most diagnostic procedures, medication and other therapeutic interventions were similar. The total mean hospital costs were €8,393 for patients with and €8,631 for patients without PCT consultation. Analyses using propensity scores to control for observed confounding showed no significant difference in hospital costs. Conclusions: PCT consultation for patients with cancer in Dutch hospitals often occurs late in the patients’ disease trajectories, which might explain why we found no effect of PCT consultation on costs of hospital care. Earlier consultation could be beneficial to patients and reduce costs of care.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13198
JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer Care
Issue number3
Early online date2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020

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