Early referral of patients with stage IV non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) to outpatient palliative care has been shown to increase survival and reduce unnecessary healthcare resource utilization. We aimed to determine outpatient palliative care referral rate and subsequent resource utilization in patients with stage IV NSCLC in a multistate, community-based hospital network and identify rates and reasons for admissions within a local healthcare system of Washington State.
A retrospective chart review of a multistate hospital network and a local healthcare system. Patients were identified using ICD billing codes. In the multistate network, 2844 patients diagnosed with stage IV NSCLC between January 1, 2013, and March 1, 2018, were reviewed. In the state healthcare system, 283 patients between August 2014 and June 2017 were reviewed.
Referral for outpatient palliative care was low: 8% (217/2844) in the multistate network and 11% (32/283) in the local healthcare system. Early outpatient palliative care (6%, 10/156) was associated with a lower proportion of patients admitted into the intensive care unit in the last 30 days of life compared to no outpatient palliative care (15%, 399/2627; p = 0.003). Outpatient palliative care referral was associated with improved overall survival in Kaplan Meier survival analysis. Within the local system, 51% (104/204) of admissions could have been managed in outpatient setting, and of the patients admitted in the last 30 days of life, 59% (87/147) experienced in-hospital deaths.
We identified underutilization of outpatient palliative care services within stage IV NSCLC patients. Many patients with NSCLC experience hospitalization the last month of life and in-hospital death.