Aggressive advance care planning shown to cut SNF costs, hospitalizations

Nursing homes that implement advance care planning programs and train staff in palliative care may see lower costs and fewer hospitalizations, according to new research published on Tuesday.

The study, conducted by researchers at Ireland's University College Cork, found that on average hospitalizations in nursing homes that implemented end-of-life or advance care planning programs dropped by almost half from 27.8%. The percentage of residents who died in a hospital also decreased, from almost 30% to 8.4%.

While length of stay increased slightly among the three facilities analyzed in the study, the study's authors attribute that to admitted residents requiring more complex care needs.

The researcher's economic analysis of the effects of end-of-life programs and staff training showed estimated cost reductions of between €10 and €17.8 million annually, or roughly $11 and $20 million. While researchers acknowledged the study's small scope, they estimated that the national cost savings could push €17.7 to €42.4 million ($20 to $48 million) if the findings were extrapolated to the wider long-term care population.

The study's authors also noted that their findings echo similar end-of-life studies, including an American one that showed end-of-life discussions helped reduce healthcare costs by 35% in a patient's last week of life.

Results of the study appear online in BioMed Central.