Financial considerations of hospital-based palliative care

By Renee Sullender, Sarah Selenich

Palliative care is an interdisciplinary care philosophy addressing patient and family needs and goals without providing a cure for the underlying disease. Palliative care can be successfully provided alongside curative care, which does focus on treating the disease. Studies have indicated that palliative care offers a variety of quality of life benefits to both the patient and family. Prompted by rapid growth of hospital-based palliative care, we explored the literature to better understand the financial incentives and barriers to these programs. Although patients who receive palliative care in the hospital have lower hospital costs than matched patients who do not receive palliative care, many hospitals face challenges in being reimbursed for services rendered by their interdisciplinary teams. In some cases, hospitals may absorb 50 percent of the costs of their palliative care teams because of lack of adequate reimbursement. Despite the opportunity for cost savings for a variety of stakeholders, without payment reform hospitals may be constrained from providing palliative care to all who might benefit. Additional research is needed to understand how patients, hospitals, and payers may participate in cost savings attributable to palliative care so that policymakers can effectively promote these services.


Sullender, R., & Selenich, S. (2016). Financial considerations of hospital-based palliative care. (RTI Press Publication No. RR-0027-1603). Research Triangle Park, NC: RTI Press.

© 2019 RTI International. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


Renee SullenderAt the time of writing, Renee T. Sullender, BA, was a public health analyst in RTI International’s Social Policy, Health, and Economics Research Unit in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. She is now a medical student at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, Wisconsin.

Sarah SelenichAt the time of writing, Sarah A. Selenich, MPP, was a health policy analyst in RTI’s Social Policy, Health, and Economics Research Unit in Washington, DC. She is now a senior associate at the Moran Company in Arlington, Virginia.

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