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Palliative Care Programs Could Boost Hospitals' Bottom Line

Better treatment of sickest patients can save more than $300 a day, study says

FRIDAY, Sept. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Taking better care of seriously ill patients can actually save hospitals more than $300 a day, according to a U.S. study.

An aging population in the United States means hospitals are caring for an increasing number of people with cancer, heart disease, kidney failure and other serious health problems. Through palliative care programs, hospitals can meet the needs of these patients and save money at the same time, said researchers at the National Palliative Care Research Center and the Center to Advance Palliative Care, based at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

"Americans are aging with serious, chronic illnesses. But despite enormous expenditures, they still get uncoordinated care, extreme burdens on their families and poorly managed pain," lead author Dr. R. Sean Morrison, director of the National Palliative Care Research Center, said in a Mount Sinai news release.

He and his colleagues looked at eight hospitals and found that the units saved from $279 to $374 per day on patients in palliative care programs and saved $1,700 to $4,900 on each admission of a palliative care patient.

The savings, which included large reductions in pharmacy, laboratory and intensive care costs, would translate into more than $1.3 million for a 300-bed community hospital and more than $2.5 million for the average medical center, the researchers said.

The study was published in the Sept. 8 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

"The potential to reduce suffering of millions of Americans is enormous. This study proves that better care can go hand in hand with a better bottom line," Dr. Diane Meier, director of the Center to Advance Palliative Care, said in the news release.

In 2006, more than 41 percent of U.S. hospitals reported having a palliative care program.

More information

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization has more about palliative care.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Mount Sinai Hospital/Mount Sinai School of Medicine, news release, Sept. 8, 2008

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