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Int J Qual Health Care. 2014 Feb;26(1):79-86. doi: 10.1093/intqhc/mzt081. Epub 2013 Nov 13.

Association of healthcare expenditures with aggressive versus palliative care for cancer patients at the end of life: a cross-sectional study using claims data in Japan.

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Department of Healthcare Economics and Quality Management, Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto University, Yoshida Konoe-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8501, Japan.



End-of-life (EOL) care imposes heavy economic burdens on patients and health insurers. Little is known about the association between the types of EOL care and healthcare costs for cancer patients across various providers.


To explore the association of healthcare expenditures with benchmarking indicators of aggressive versus palliative care among terminally ill cancer patients, from the perspective of health insurers.


Cross-sectional retrospective study using health insurance claims data.


participants Cancer patients who had died in Kyoto prefecture, Japan, between April 2009 and May 2010. Main outcome measure Claims data were analyzed using multilevel generalized linear models to examine whether aggressive care and palliative care were associated with expenditures during the last 3 months of life, after adjusting for patient characteristics, hospital characteristics and other non-indicator procedures.


We analyzed 3143 decedents from 54 hospitals. Median expenditure per patient during the last 3 months was US$13 030. Higher expenditures were associated with the aggressive care indicators of higher mortality at acute-care hospitals and use of chemotherapy in the last month of life, as well as with the palliative care indicators of increased hospice care and opioid use in the last 3 months of life. However, increased physician home care in the last 3 months was associated with lower expenditure.


Indicators of both aggressive and palliative EOL care were associated with higher healthcare expenditures. These results may support the coherent development of measures to optimize aggressive care and reduce the financial burdens of terminal cancer care.


administrative data; economics; intensive care; neoplasms; palliative care; quality measurement

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