CARE Track for Advanced Cancer: Impact and Timing of an Outpatient Palliative Care Clinic

Leslie J Blackhall, Paul Read, George Stukenborg, Patrick Dillon, Joshua Barclay, Andrew Romano, James Harrison
Journal of Palliative Medicine 2016, 19 (1): 57-63

BACKGROUND: Studies suggest that outpatient palliative care can reduce hospitalization and increase hospice utilization for patients with cancer, however there are insufficient resources to provide palliative care to all patients from time of diagnosis. It is also unclear whether inpatient consultation alone provides similar benefits. A better understanding of the timing, setting, and impact of palliative care for patients with cancer is needed.

OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this study was to measure timing of referral to outpatient palliative care and impact on end-of-life (EOL) care.

DESIGN: The Comprehensive Assessment with Rapid Evaluation and Treatment (CARE Track) program is a phased intervention integrating outpatient palliative care into cancer care. In Year 1 patients were referred at the discretion of their oncologist.

SETTING: Academic medical center.

MEASUREMENTS: We compared EOL hospitalization, hospice utilization, and costs of care for CARE Track patients compared to those never seen by palliative care or seen only in hospital.

RESULTS: Patients were referred a median of 72.5 days prior to death. CARE Track patients had few hospitalizations at end of life, were less likely to die in hospital, had increased hospice utilization, and decreased costs of care; these results were significant even after controlling for differences between groups. Inpatient consultation alone did not impact these variables. However, only approximately half of patients with incurable cancers were referred to this program.

CONCLUSION: Referral outpatient palliative care within 3 months of death improved EOL care and reduced costs, benefits not seen with inpatient care only. However, many patients were never referred, and methods of systematically identifying appropriate patients are needed.


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