Nonclinical outcomes of hospital-based palliative care

Kenneth R. White, Kristie G. Stover, J. Brian Cassel, Thomas J. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Evidence-based outcomes are commonly used in making decisions about clinical care. For healthcare executives, evidence-based outcomes also can be useful in making decisions about hospital services. Finkler and Ward (2003) suggest a model whereby cost measurement, cost control, and value assessment can be used as nonclinical, evidence-based outcome measures to provide decision support and to guide management decisions. The Finkler and Ward framework is used to understand the financial implications of establishing an inpatient palliative care unit (PCU). A longitudinal study was conducted to examine the nonclinical outcomes asso-ciated with opening and operating an inpatient PCU at a large academic medical center during the first four years of the unit's operation. First, the cost of providing inpatient palliative care was measured. Results indicated that the cost per day to care for patients hospitalized in the last 20 days leading up to their death was significantly less on the PCU than on intensive care units and non-PCUs. Average daily total charges exceeded reimbursement on the ICU and non-PCUs, but the cost on the PCU for the same population was equal to or below the average daily total charges. Second, ways to control costs when operating an inpatient PCU were identified and measured. Evidence from one organization suggests that costs can effectively be controlled by admitting patients directly to the PCU and by appropriate use of hospital resources, including staff, ancillary services, and pharmaceuticals. Third, the study assessed the value to the institution of operating an inpatient PCU. Results indicated that the inpatient PCU yielded a cost savings of nearly $1 million by the third year of operations. This study highlights the nonclinical outcomes of one institution's inpatient PCU and provides guidelines for healthcare executives and managers to use in making decisions about adopting such programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)260-273
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Healthcare Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Leadership and Management
  • Health Policy
  • Strategy and Management


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