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A study released in 2009 by Harvard University directly associated practical end-of-life counseling with lower health care expenses and better quality of life for patients with advanced cancers.
  • Researchers interviewed 603 advanced-cancer patients about whether they had end-of-life conversations with their physicians.
  • They found that patients who did, had an estimated average of $1,876 in health care expenses during their final week of life.
  • This compares with $2,917 for those who did not.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Associationfinds that offering end-of-life counseling to terminal cancer patients actually improves their mood and quality of life.
  • In the study, trained nurses did the end-of-life counseling with patients and family caregivers using a model based on national guidelines.
  • All the patients in the study had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Half were assigned to receive usual care. The other half received usual care plus counseling about managing symptoms, communicating with health care providers and finding hospice care.
  • Patients and their caregivers also could attend monthly 90-minute group meetings with a doctor and a nurse to ask questions and discuss problems in what's called a "shared medical appointment."
  • Patients who got the counseling scored higher on quality of life and mood measures than patients who did not./li>
  • The patients who got the counseling also lived longer, by more than five months on average.
A study published in the Journal of Palliative Medicine shows that expanded insurance benefits break down the barriers to hospice care.
  • Patients with advanced illnesses more than doubled their use of hospice care when a major national health plan made hospice care more readily accessible.In contrast with many insurers that limit access to hospice care, national healthcare insurer Aetna studied a trial of expanded insurance benefits for hospice care and added nurse case managers who provided information to patients and their families.
  • The result was a dramatic increase in both overall hospice use and the mean number of days in hospice care.
  • This study must be evaluated in the light of compelling research data that shows hospice care provides better care than standard care for patients near the end of life.