Early Palliative Care Is Associated with Reduced Emergency Department Utilization in Pancreatic Cancer

Jack Bevins, Nizar Bhulani, Suleyman Y. Goksu, Nina N. Sanford, Ang Gao, Chul Ahn, Mary E. Paulk, Stephanie Terauchi, Sandi L. Pruitt, Anna Tavakkoli, Ramona L Rhodes, Syed M.A. Kazmi, Muhammad S. Beg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objectives: Most patients with pancreatic cancer have high symptom burden and poor outcomes. Palliative care (PC) can improve the quality of care through expert symptom management, although the optimal timing of PC referral is still poorly understood. We aimed to assess the association of early PC on health care utilization and charges of care for pancreatic cancer patients. Materials and Methods: We selected patients with pancreatic cancer diagnosed between 2000 and 2009 who received at least 1 PC encounter using the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER)-Medicare. Patients who had unknown follow-up were excluded. We defined "early PC" if the patients received PC within 30 days of diagnosis. Results: A total of 3166 patients had a PC encounter; 28% had an early PC. Patients receiving early PC were more likely to be female and have older age compared with patients receiving late PC (P<0.001). Patients receiving early PC had fewer emergency department (ED) visits (2.6 vs. 3.0 visits, P=0.004) and lower total charges of ED care ($3158 vs. $3981, P<0.001) compared with patients receiving late PC. Patients receiving early PC also had lower intensive care unit admissions (0.82 vs. 0.98 visits, P=0.006) and total charges of intensive care unit care ($14,466 vs. $18,687, P=0.01). On multivariable analysis, patients receiving early PC were significantly associated with fewer ED visits (P=0.007) and lower charges of ED care (P=0.018) for all patients. Conclusions: Early PC referrals were associated with lower ED visits and ED-related charges. Our findings support oncology society guideline recommendations for early PC in patients with advanced malignancies such as pancreatic cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-186
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Oncology: Cancer Clinical Trials
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Medicare
  • health care utilization
  • palliative care
  • pancreatic neoplasms
  • propensity score

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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