BACKGROUND: Prior research indicates that hospice and palliative care delivered in outpatient settings are associated with reduced hospital readmissions for cancer patients. However, little is known about how inpatient palliative care affects readmissions in oncology.
OBJECTIVE: To examine associations among inpatient palliative care consultation, hospice use (discharge), and 30-day readmissions among patients with solid tumor cancers.
METHODS: We identified all live discharges from a large tertiary cancer hospital between 2010 and 2016. Palliative care consult data were abstracted from medical charts and linked to hospital encounter data. Propensity scores were used to match palliative care consult to usual care encounters. Modified Poisson regression models estimated adjusted relative risk (aRR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) of 30-day readmissions and hospice discharge. We compared predicted probabilities of readmission for palliative care consultation with hospice discharge, without hospice discharge, and usual care.
RESULTS: Of 8085 eligible encounters, 753 involved a palliative care consult. The likelihood of having a 30-day readmission did not differ between palliative care consult and usual care groups (p > 0.05). However, the palliative care consult group was more likely than usual care to have a hospice discharge (aRR = 4.09, 95% CI: 3.07-5.44). The predicted probability of 30-day readmission was lower when palliative care consultation was combined with hospice discharge compared to usual care or consultation with discharge to nonhospice postacute care (p < 0.001).
CONCLUSIONS: The effect of inpatient palliative care on readmissions in oncology is largely driven by hospice enrollment. Strategies that combine palliative care consultation with hospice discharge may decrease hospital readmissions and improve cancer care quality.