Healthcare News & Insights

Improving palliative care can shorten hospital stays, increase bottom line

Your hospital may already offer excellent palliative care, but there’s always room for improvement. New research shows adding palliative care consultation, or expanding what you already have, can not only positively impact your sickest patients, but can also save your organization money.

Refresher: Palliative care is for patients with serious illnesses and works to line up treatments with a patient’s goals. It also focuses more on reducing patient suffering rather than diagnosing or curing conditions.

The ultimate goal? To improve quality of life for very sick patients, especially at the end of their lives.

An analysis of six different studies, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that patients seen by a palliative care consultation team had lower hospital costs than patients who didn’t receive this care.

Although the cost savings vary based on a range of clinical factors, prioritizing staff members to care for seriously ill patients and increasing capacity can reduce your hospital’s costs.

And the savings weren’t chump change. On average, hospitals saved $3,237 per patient when palliative care was added to their routine regimen.

But we know cash flow isn’t the be-all and end-all for your hospital. Palliative care teams are another resource and form of support for patients with complex diseases and their families. That supportive environment can contribute to shorter hospital stays as well.

Plus, since palliative care is focused more directly on patients, these teams can help patients feel more relaxed and like they’re the priority in a busy hospital.

Improving your palliative care

There are a couple of specific steps your organization can take to improve palliative care, depending on the resources and time you have to devote.

First, you could consider hiring and putting together a team that specifically focuses on end-of-life treatment and serious illnesses. If you can, a group of experts in this area would require less training and could provide immediate comfort to patients.

If hiring a new team isn’t a possibility, you might want to hold training sessions explaining palliative care principles to your current staff members. Remind them about the importance of focusing on patients and how they’re feeling, but don’t forget about their families.

Remember: Caring for patients at the ends of their lives, or for those who have serious illnesses, can also be exhausting for staff members. Encourage providers to take care of themselves as well, and promote stress-zapping activities like quick meditation sessions. That way, everyone has a positive experience.

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