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Study: Doctor-patient conversations at end of life associated with lower medical expenses
Date:3/9/2009

wn that a disproportionate share of health-care spending in the United States is incurred at the end of life and that patients who speak with their physicians about end-of-life preferences have fewer life-sustaining procedures and lower rates of intensive care admission. The study by Prigerson and her colleagues suggests a direct link between communications at the end of life with lower health care costs and better quality of life for patients with advanced cancers.

The paper is part of a multi-institutional study called Coping With Cancer. Funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Cancer Institute, the study tracks the health and psychological state of 627 patients nationwide with advanced cancer.

Although the study doesn't purport to show a cause-and-effect relationship between EOL conversations and lower medical costs, it does suggest a strategy for reducing such costs and for improving patients' quality of life as death approaches, notes Prigerson, who is also on faculty at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School. If the national proportion of patients reporting EOL discussions was increased to 50 percent, the annual cost savings could be more than $76 million dollars, researchers estimate, based on the annual number of cancers deaths in the U.S.


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Contact: Bill Schaller
william_schaller@dfci.harvard.edu
617-632-5357
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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