New research is carving out the case for palliative care investment as more hospices dive into this growing market.
A recently published study from Scientific Reports found that cancer patients who received palliative care services required 38% fewer emergency department visits and saw 56% fewer hospital admissions than those who did not. Additionally, the palliative care patients spent 71% fewer total days in the hospital prior to death.
Researchers compared health outcomes among 183 patients with incurable, advanced types of cancers from 2014 to 2018 to determine an association between palliative care and health utilization metrics.
The data findings reflect a wider trend of how palliative care utilization can ease pressures on high-cost health care utilization at the end of life, making the case for these services to become a more integral part of the overall health care sphere.
The palliative care market has seen growth in recent years, with cost savings and rising awareness as main propellants drawing more hospice and other care providers to enter the market. Demographics represent an additional driving force as the number of patients living with chronic and serious illness rises alongside the nation’s swelling aging population.
The palliative sector saw large gains last year and is projected to continue to boom. The U.S. palliative care market will reach $78.50 billion by 2023, a climb from $49.42 billion during 2018, according to a recent Market.us report.
Several palliative care projects sprouted this year. Some came in the form of clinical educational programs to grow the workforce, while others took shape through service diversification.
The newest move came with the launch of Big Bend Hospice’s palliative care program. The Florida-based hospice provider recently rolled out the program this fall, dubbed Transitions Supportive Care.
The program is offered across communities of the nonprofit provider’s eight-county service area that spans Northern Florida. The decision to diversify into palliative care was several years in the making, largely to improve the quality and expand care options for seriously ill patients and their families at the end of life, according to Big Bend Hospice CEO Bill Wertman.
“Five years ago, our leadership began a strategic look at how we could diversify to better serve our community,” Wertman told local news. “We knew serving more people with expanded services would be a big part of our future, and to do that, we needed to begin creating a clinically integrated network. Transitions Supportive Care will give those in our community seeking care access to a higher quality of life while pursuing curative treatment.”
More hospice-provider moves into palliative care are expected on the horizon. Amedisys (NASDAQ: AMED), for example, has announced a deeper dive into the sector.
The company sees its palliative care arm Contessa as a significant and “transformative” building block in its growth plans, according to CEO Paul Kusserow. Its palliative partners include Mount Sinai, Baylor Scott & White and Henry Ford Health System.
“There’s a lot of depth in what we can do there,” Kusserow said at the Bank of America Securities Home Care Conference. “We have some palliative programs that … we have going in three places. We have some significant conversations on palliative at other places.”