End of life is a scary, vulnerable time for both patients and families. Not only are they confronting the reality of death but they are also trying to navigate unfamiliar portions of the health care system. Palliative and hospice care have different goals than other specialties, as they are less focused on curative treatment and more concerned with making sure the patient is comfortable and has the best quality of life possible.

Care at end of life also has the reputation of being expensive and this may lead to treatment decisions that do not serve the patient or their families. CIVHC is currently developing a new study to shed some light on what is included in end of life care and how it can improve outcomes while lowering costs. Using data from the Colorado All Payer Claims Database (CO APCD) combined with death registry information; we will first identify Coloradans with non-traumatic causes of death during a specific timeframe and then analyze data from these patients’ last two years of health care. This analysis will help determine how health care services are used in the last two years of life and how much those services cost.

The study will be one of the first of its kind, spanning different payers, geographic areas, facilities, and diagnoses. Previous studies have looked at the Medicare population but few have included the commercially insured and Medicaid beneficiaries. By including multiple payers, diagnoses, regions, and facility types, this study will include many different ways to explore the factors that influence cost and service utilization.

CIVHC will publish more information as the study progresses. If you have questions about the study or CIVHC’s work in palliative care, please email Kari Degerness at kdegerness@civhc.org.

By Kari Degerness, MBA, LNHA, CIVHC’s Director of Health Care Programs