Access to Care/Patient Quality of Life

ACS CAN works improve cancer patients' quality of life by supporting legislation to ensure that comprehensive and accurate information and education about palliative care is available to the public, health care providers, and health care facilities. In addition, health care facilities should provide this information to patients and facilitate access to appropriate palliative care services for patients and residents to improve coordinated, supportive care during treatment from the beginning of diagnosis of serious diseases such as cancer.

Palliative care, also called supportive care, can provide better quality of life for patients with chronic diseases such as cancer, and their families. Palliative care focuses on relieving the pain, stress, and other symptoms associated with cancer and its treatment. Palliative care is appropriate at any age and any stage of diagnosis. It can be provided from the time of diagnosis and continue alongside curative treatment. Palliative care services uses a team based approach, bringing the patient's cancer doctor together with other doctors and nurses to provide specialized expertise as an extra layer of support. This approach focuses on the patient's and family's priorities and concerns, assisting with communication and coordination across care settings. It also gives patients, survivors, and their families a voice in determining the medical care that is right for them.

Palliative Care Can Reduce Health Care Costs:

  • A 2008 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that hospital palliative care consultation teams are associated with significant hosptial savings. It concluded that palliative care patients discharged alive had an adjusted net savings of $1696 in direct costs per admission and $279 in direct costs per day, and palliative care patients who died in the hospital had an adjusted net savings of $4908 in direct costs per admission and $374 in direct costs per day;
  • A 2005 study published in Health Services Research showed significant cost reductions at 5 hospitals in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area. The study found that palliative care in the first 10 days of admission resulted in $9,689 savings for patients who died in the hospital, and $2,696 for patients discharged alive;
  • A 2011 study published in Health Affairs demonstrated that hospital based palliative care teams create efficiencies that deliver significant cost savings. Provision of palliative care consultations to Medicaid patients at four New York state hospitals resulted in almost $7,000 of savings in hospital costs per admission, and these patients spent less time in intensive care and were less likely to die in the intensive care unit. The study's estimated reduction in New York Medicaid hospital spending, if all large hospitals were to have palliative care teams, was between $84 and $252 million per year;
  • Palliative Care Can Add More Days to Patients' Lives and More Life to Their Days;
  • Studies have shown coordinating patient care and treating pain and symptoms leads to increased patient and family satisfaction and decreases the time spent in intensive care units and the likelihood patients will be readmitted;
  • One 2010 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that early palliative care provided alongside cancer treatment resulted in patients living longer. The study examined introducing routine palliative care evaluations and ongoing support for patients newly diagnosed with lung cancer. The results were that patients felt better, were less depressed, were less likely to die in the hospital, and were less likely to be in the hospital in their last month of life. Patients who got palliative care at the same time as their cancer treatment lived nearly 3 months longer than similar patients getting only cancer care but not receiving palliative care;
  • Four other studies have shown that when palliative care teams work together with oncologists, patients are able to remain at home - they don't end up in the ER and hospital with pain and symptom crises. As a result, they go through fewer unnecessary tests and procedures.