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Major study finds early palliative care for cancer patients costs A LOT less

Early palliative care for advanced cancer patients is better for the patient and produces serious savings.

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TRINITY COLLEGE DUBLIN has teamed up with Mount Sinai in New York to publish new research that shows that giving advanced cancer patients early palliative care is not only better for the health of the patient, but significantly lowers costs for the health system.

While previous research has shown the clinical benefits, this new study shows how it also results in significant cost reductions of up to 24%.

Hospital stay costs

The intervention reduced both the length and intensity of hospital stay for patients with advanced cancer.

This is the first time that a study into the economic benefits of early palliative care intervention has been carried out.

The researchers from Trinity’s Centre for Health Policy and Management and Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine, led by Peter May, HRB Economics of Cancer Fellow at Trinity, studied over 1000 patients’ pathways of care in five major US hospitals and looked at costs associated with their care based on whether they saw a specialist palliative care consultation team or received standard hospital care.

Early intervention 

They found that an intervention within six days was estimated to reduce costs by 14% compared to no intervention.

An intervention within two days led to a 24% reduction in cost of hospital stay.

“Our findings show that alongside proven clinical benefits and outcomes for patients and their families there are also cost savings for the health system; a very important consideration in the context of an aging population and changing patterns of disease,” said May.

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The team will now look to apply the research findings to the Irish setting.

May added:

Across Ireland there are excellent palliative care services for people living and dying with serious illness but there remains a high level of unmet need.

“High quality research is essential to improving understanding of the potential benefits of palliative care for patients and their families, and for the wider health system,” he said.

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