The value of compassion: Healthcare savings of palliative care consults in trauma

Published:October 19, 2022DOI:



      The effects of palliative care (PC) consultation on patient costs and hospitalization metrics in the adult trauma population are unclear.

      Study Design

      We interrogated our Level I trauma center databases from 1/1/19 to 3/31/21 for patients age ≥18 admitted to the trauma service. Patients undergoing PC consult were matched using propensity scoring to those without PC consultation based on age, admission Glasgow Coma Scale score, Injury Severity Score and Head Abbreviated Injury Scale. Total costs, total cost per day, hospital length of stay (LOS), ICU LOS, intubation days, discharge disposition, and rates of nephrology consultation and tracheostomy/feeding tube placements were compared.


      140 unique patients underwent PC consultation and were matched to a group not receiving PC consult during the same period. Median total costs in the PC cohort were $39,532 compared to $70,330 in the controls (p<0.01).  Median costs per day in the PC cohort were $3,495 vs $17,970 in the controls (p<0.01).  Median costs per ICU day in the PC cohort were $3,774 vs $17,127 in the controls (p<0.01).  Mean hospital LOS (15.7 vs 7 days), ICU LOS (7.9 vs 2.9 days), and ventilator days (5.1 vs 1.5) were significantly higher in the PC cohort (all p<0.01).  Rates of nephrology consultation (8.6 vs 2.1%, p = 0.03) and tracheostomy/feeding tube placements (12.1 vs 1.4%, p<0.01) were also higher in the PC group.  Patients were more likely to discharge to hospice if they received a PC consult (33.6 vs 2.1%, p<0.01).  Mean time to PC consult was 7.2 days (range 1 hour to 45 days). LOS post-consult correlated positively with time to PC consultation (r = 0.27, p<0.01).


      Expert PC services are known to alleviate suffering and avert patient goal- and value-incongruent care. While trauma patients demand significant resources, PC consultation offered in concordance with life-sustaining interventions is associated with significant savings to patients and the healthcare system. Given the correlation between LOS following PC consult and time to PC consult, savings may be amplified by earlier PC consultation in appropriate patients.


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