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Collaborative palliative care for advanced heart failure: outcomes and costs from the ‘Better Together’ pilot study

Abstract

Background Patients with heart failure often receive little supportive or palliative care. ‘Better Together’ was a 2-year pilot study of a palliative care service for patients with advanced congestive heart failure (CHF).

Objective To determine if the intervention made it more likely that patients would be cared for and die in their place of choice, and to investigate its cost-effectiveness.

Methods This pragmatic non-randomised pilot evaluation was set in two English primary care trusts (Bradford and Poole). Prospective patient-level data on outcomes and costs were compared with data from a historical control group of clinically comparable patients. Outcomes included death in preferred place of care (available only for the intervention group) and ‘hospital admissions averted’. Costs included medical procedures, inpatient care and the direct cost of providing the intervention.

Results 99 patients were referred. Median survival from referral was 48 days in Bradford and 31 days in Poole. Most patients who died did so in their preferred place of death (Bradford 70%, Poole 77%). An estimated 14 and 18 hospital admissions for heart failure were averted in Bradford and Poole, respectively. The average cost-per-heart failure admission averted was £1529 in Bradford, but the intervention was cost saving in Poole. However, there was considerable uncertainty around these cost-effectiveness estimates.

Conclusions This pilot study provides tentative evidence that a collaborative home-based palliative care service for patients with advanced CHF may increase the likelihood of death in place of choice and reduce inpatient admissions. These findings require confirmation using a more robust methodological framework.

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