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J Palliat Med. 2010 Nov;13(11):1339-43. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2010.0155. Epub 2010 Oct 30.

Clinical and financial impact of a palliative care program at a small rural hospital.

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Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center, Richmond, Virginia, USA.



Palliative care (PC) programs attempt to improve communication and symptom management, and a consequence has been lower cost of in-hospital death. To date, most research has focused on urban large hospitals. This study reports the clinical and financial impact of a new palliative care service at a 76-bed nonprofit hospital located in rural Virginia, Rappahannock General Hospital (RGH).


The RGH PC program started in 2006 with a part-time physician on grant support. We collected the number of consults, physician billing and receipts, and calculated the impact on the hospital's charges for patients treated with concurrent palliative care.


The program was well accepted clinically with referrals from most of the palliative care physician's colleagues. After the first year of operation, she has about 10 new consults and a total of 45 visits per month. Billings for this year are projected to be $59,070 and her collections are projected to be $29,604 (50%). Hospital charges per patient are reduced about $400 per day, or 25%, after a palliative care consultation, which sums to $80,000 to $130,000 yearly. Referrals to home hospice increased.


Palliative care by a dedicated practitioner can work in rural areas. The income will be small, but the operational and financial benefits to the hospital can be significant. This is better care at a cost that rural hospitals and practitioners can afford.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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