High costs give palliative care increased industry interest


While a nascent industry of for-profit companies is eyeing palliative care, some believe a more viable response would be for health systems to build out internal capacities.

Efforts to improve palliative care are growing as both providers and payers struggle to control costs and provide quality end-of-life care. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation report found roughly 25% of Medicare dollars are spent on beneficiaries in the last year of life for services including hospitalization, post-acute care and hospice.

Palliative care is medical care that’s been customized to meet the needs of people with complex and serious illnesses. The goal is to reduce stress and improve the quality of life for both the patient and their family through pain relief, symptom control and help managing care and basic living tasks. “Palliative care teams are able to pull everyone together into the same room — not only the family but also the many different sub-specialists — and actually have a conversation about what is medically appropriate for this patient, so that the care plan becomes rational and appropriate,” says Center to Advance Palliative Care Director Diane Meier.

Today, nearly all hospitals with more than 300 beds and roughly two-thirds of hospitals with more than 50 beds have palliative care teams. While the size of the U.S. palliative care market is hard to pin down, the combined hospice and palliative care market totals $31 billion and is growing at an annual rate of 1.4%, according to research firm IBISWorld.


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