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September 26, 1994

Advance Directives and the Cost of Terminal Hospitalization

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Medicine, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, White River Junction, Vt (Drs Weeks, Wallace, and Welch) and the Departments of Psychiatry (Drs Weeks and Wallace) and the Center for the Evaluative Clinical Sciences (Dr Welch), Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, NH; and the Department of Medicine, Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Department of Psychiatry, University of South Dakota Medical School, Sioux Falls (Dr Kofoed).

Arch Intern Med. 1994;154(18):2077-2083. doi:10.1001/archinte.1994.00420180085010

Background:  It has been assumed that patients using advance directives would direct terminal care away from the intensive care unit and choose shorter, less costly, less technological terminal hospital stays.

Methods:  This retrospective cohort study examined 336 consecutive patients who died in a university tertiary care medical center: 242 without advance directives, 66 with a previously completed advance directive, 13 admitted for the express purpose of terminal care, and 15 who signed an advance directive during their terminal hospitalization. Total charges (hospital and physician) were calculated for all patients and were adjusted using both physician and hospital diagnosis-related group weights. Patient participation in end-of-life decisions was determined by chart review.

Results:  The group without advance directives had dramatically higher mean total ($49 900 vs $31 200) terminal hospitalization charges than the group with previously completed advance directives, producing a charge ratio of 1.6. After diagnosis-related group adjustment, the charge ratio was 1.35 (95% confidence interval, 1.07 to 1.72) for physician charge, 1.36 (95% confidence interval, 1.06 to 1.74) for hospital charge, and 1.35 (95% confidence interval, 1.08 to 1.73) for total charge. Multiple regression analysis controlling for age, sex, and cancer diagnosis confirmed these findings. Patients with advance directives were significantly more likely to limit treatment and to participate in end-of-life decisions.

Conclusion:  Patients without advance directives have significantly higher terminal hospitalization charges than those with advance directives. Our investigation suggests that the preferences of patients with advance directives are to limit care and these preferences influence the cost of terminal hospitalization.(Arch Intern Med. 1994;154:2077-2083)