Article Abstract

Palliative care and end-of-life health care utilization in elderly patients with pancreatic cancer

Authors: Nizar Bhulani, Arjun Gupta, Ang Gao, Jenny Li, Chad Guenther, Chul Ahn, Elizabeth Paulk, Stephanie Houck, Muhammad S. Beg

Abstract

Background: Palliative care has been associated with improved survival and quality of life, with lower rate of end-of-life health care utilization and cost. We examined trends in palliative care utilization in older pancreatic cancer patients.
Methods: Pancreatic cancer patients with and without palliative care consults were identified using the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER)-Medicare linked database between 2000 and 2009. Trend of palliative care use was studied. Emergency room/intensive care unit (ICU) utilization and costs in the last 30 days of life were compared between both groups using propensity score-matched (PSM) analysis.
Results: Of the 54,130 patients, 3,166 (5.8%) received palliative care and 70% received it in the last 30 days of life. The proportion of patients receiving palliative care increased from 1.4% in 2000 to 7.4% in 2009 (P<0.001). Patients with palliative care were more likely to be older, Asian and women. In the unmatched and PSM population, the average visits to the ER in the last 30 days of life were significantly higher for patients who received palliative care, and had a significantly higher cost of care. Similarly, ICU length of stay in the last 30 days of life was higher in patients who did not receive palliative care in both PSM and unmatched patients. Cost of care and number of ICU admissions were not different between palliative and non-palliative care groups in PSM and unmatched patients.
Conclusions: In this study of Medicare patients with pancreatic cancer, palliative care use has increased between 2000 and 2009. Palliative care was largely offered close to the end of life and was not associated with reduced health care utilization or cost.