Community hospitals will often transfer their most complex, critically ill patients to intensive care units (ICUs) of tertiary care centers for specialized, comprehensive care. This population of patients has high rates of morbidity and mortality. Palliative care involvement in critically ill patients has been demonstrated to reduce over-utilization of resources and hospital length of stays. We hypothesized that transfers from community hospitals had low rates of palliative care involvement and high utilization of ICU resources. In this single-center retrospective cohort study, 848 patients transferred from local community hospitals to the medical ICU (MICU) and cardiac care unit (CCU) at a tertiary care center between 2016-2018 were analyzed for patient disposition, length of stay, hospitalization cost, and time to palliative care consultation. Of the 848 patients, 484 (57.1%) expired, with 117 (13.8%) having expired within 48 hours of transfer. Palliative care consult was placed for 201 (23.7%) patients. Patients with palliative care consult were statistically more likely to be referred to hospice (p<0.001). Over two-thirds of palliative care consults were placed later than 5 days after transfer. Time to palliative care consult was positively correlated with length of hospitalization among MICU patients (r=0.79) and CCU patients (r=0.90). Time to palliative consult was also positively correlated with hospitalization cost among MICU patients (r=0.75) and CCU patients (r=0.86). These results indicate early palliative care consultation in this population may result in timely goals of care discussions and optimization of resources.
Keywords: palliative care, interhospital transfer, academic health center, community hospital, quality improvement
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