British Columbia

Invest in palliative care to reduce health costs, say physicians

The Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians reports that investing in palliative care programs can reduce the use of other, more expensive health care services.

'Palliative care has a lot to offer both financially and socially,' says expert

A report by the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians says investing in hospice and home care could reduce costs to the health care system because of the country's aging demographic. (Canadian Press)

Investing in palliative care and hospice programs could improve patient care and reduce health-care costs, says a new report from the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians

According to the society, investing in hospital-based palliative care, compared to acute care, could save the health care system up to $8,000 per patient. 

Providing palliative care would enable the more efficient and appropriate use of Canadian health care resources by reducing the costs of caring for people with life-threatening illnesses and freeing up much-needed hospital beds, said society president, Dr. David Henderson in a statement. 

Canadians are aging

According to Statistics Canada, one in six people is at least 65 years old. This translates into higher costs for Canada's health care system.

The aging population is reaching a critical point and overwhelming the health care system, Pippa Hawley, head of the UBC Division of Palliative Care, told CBC's B.C. Almanac guest host, Michelle Eliot.

"The portion of the population that are going to be needing palliative care...they are the ones that consume the vast majority of the resources," said Hawley.

Hawley said the health care system could save money, and improve care quality, by investing in hospice and home care programs. 

"Palliative care has a lot to offer both financially and socially," said Hawley.

Cutting costs

The report said that shifting 10 per cent of patients at the end of their lives from acute hospital care to home care would save $9 million a year.

It further estimates that moving patients from acute care to a hospice could reduce patient costs by $600 per day.

According to the society, palliative care reduces patient anxiety and depression, improves their quality of life and, in some cases, extends life.

In January, the province provided $7.1 million to create new hospice beds in B.C.

According to a statement from the Ministry of Health, the provincial government plans to double the number of hospice beds in B.C. by 2020.

With files from B.C. Almanac.

To hear the complete interview with Pippa Hawley, click on the audio labelled, Improving palliative care.