Early Quality of Life Care Lowers Overall Cancer Treatment Costs

Early palliative care reduces costs more than traditional treatment standards.

Early palliative care reduces costs more than traditional treatment standards.

Specialized attention to quality of life issues early in treatment for advanced cancer can reduce the overall cost of treatment, a recent study found.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, indicates that the provision of palliative care early on in the treatment process can not only improve the quality of medical care for both patients and families, but can also provide this at a lower cost than traditional cancer care.

This care includes specialized medical treatment focused on relief from symptoms, pain, and stress of advanced disease. This care seeks to enhance quality of life, and can be administered along with curative treatment.

The study evaluated clinical and cost data from 969 adult patients with advanced cancer from 2007 to 2011. Among the patients, 256 received palliative care and traditional oncologic care, while 713 only received traditional oncologic care alone.

The data revealed that palliative care consultation within 6 days of hospitalization decreased hospital costs by $1312 compared with patients who received traditional care. Furthermore, palliative care consultation within 2 days of hospitalization decreased hospital costs by an additional $968 for total savings of $2208 compared with patients who received traditional care.

Those cost reductions are equivalent to a 14% and a 24% decrease, respectively, in hospitalization costs. The overall result indicates that palliative care has an optimal effect early during the course of treatment.

"As our population ages and patterns of disease continue to shift, there is an urgent need for affordable models of care for patients living with serious illness that improve quality and access," senior author R. Sean Morrison, MD, said in a press release.