The Intensive Palliative Care Unit: Changing Outcomes for Hospitalized Cancer Patients in an Academic Medical Center

Haipeng Zhang, Constance Barysauskas, Elizabeth Rickerson, Paul Catalano, Joseph Jacobson, Carol Dalby, Charlotta Lindvall, Kathy Selvaggi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background: Patients with advanced cancer often require complex symptom management. At Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center, the intensive palliative care unit (IPCU) admits symptomatic oncology patients with uncontrolled symptoms throughout the trajectory of illness. Patients are uniquely managed by an interdisciplinary team of clinicians who focus on symptom management and advance care planning. Objective: The purpose of our analysis was to investigate goals-of-care outcomes and healthcare utilization after admission to the IPCU. Design: We retrospectively reviewed 74 oncology patients admitted to the IPCU in August and September, 2013. Results: A total of 67 IPCU patients who were admitted received palliative intent treatment, whereas 7 patients received curative intent care. All patients were engaged in a goals-of-care discussion during admission. Of the palliative intent patients, 58% were transferred to the IPCU from medical oncology and 42% were directly admitted. Forty-eight percent of the patients were diagnosed with metastatic lung, genitourinary, or gastrointestinal cancer. Eighty-seven percent of patients reported pain as the chief complaint at admission. Twenty-five patients experienced a change in code status from Full Code to do-not-resuscitate/do-not-incubate. A total of eight patients died in the IPCU, and 50% experienced a code status change. Eighty-eight percent of patients were discharged alive. Of those, 49% were discharged to home hospice, general inpatient hospice, or an inpatient hospice facility. The risk of 30-day readmission was 4%. Conclusions: Among advanced cancer patients, our findings suggest that an inpatient palliative care unit helps clarify goals of care, aids in appropriate hospice referrals, and decreases hospital readmissions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-289
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of palliative medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Nursing
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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