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J Palliat Med. 2000 Summer;3(2):181-6.

The impact of a regional palliative care program on the cost of palliative care delivery.

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Department of Symptom Control and Palliative Care, University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


In July 1995 the Edmonton Regional Palliative Care Program (ERPCP) was established in the City of Edmonton to increase the access of patients with terminal cancer to palliative care services, decrease the number of cancer deaths in acute-care facilities, and increase the participation of family physicians in the care of terminally ill patients. The objective of this retrospective study was to determine the cost of implementation of the ERPCP and savings in acute-care facility costs after its implementation. We did this by comparing the cost of care for patients during 1992-93 (prior to the ERPCP) and 1996-97 (with the ERPCP). The main outcome measures were the cost of care and the total hospital stay in days for all patients during their last acute-care hospital admission. The increased funding for the ERPCP was offset by a significant decrease in the overall cost of palliative care in the acute-care facilities. There was a substantial decrease in the palliative care costs in acute facilities from 11,963,846 dollars in 1992/93 to 3,449,055 dollars in 1996/97. This can be explained by the significant decrease in the number of palliative care patient days in acute-care facilities from 22,608 during 1992/93 to 6085 during 1996/97. Physician billings were slightly higher for 1996 as compared to 1992. In 1992, 90% (195,117/427,780) of the billings were made by the specialists (internists, surgeons, and other specialists), while in 1996/97 67% (359,869/537,342) of the payments were made to primary care practitioners (p < 0.0001). Overall, there were estimated saving of 1,650,689 dollars for palliative care costs in 1996/97 as compared to 1992/93. Our results suggest that the establishment of an integrated palliative care program reduced the cost of care. Prospective cost measurement studies are required.


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