The compassionate communities connectors program: effect on healthcare usage

Samar M. Aoun, Natasha Bear, Bruce Rumbold

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Background: Public health approaches to palliative and end-of-life care focus on enhancing the integration of services and providing a comprehensive approach that engages the assets of local communities. However, few studies have evaluated the relative costs and benefits of providing care using these service models. Objectives: To assess the effect on healthcare usage of a community-based palliative care program (‘Compassionate Communities Connectors’) where practical and social support was delivered by community volunteers to people living with advanced life-limiting illnesses in regional Western Australia. Design: Controlled before-and-after study/Cost-consequence analysis. Methods: A total of 43 community-based patients participated in the program during the period 2020–2022. A comparator population of 172 individuals with advanced life-limiting illnesses was randomly selected from usage data from the same set of health services. Results: Relative to controls, the intervention group had lower hospitalizations per month [Incidence rate ratio (IRR): 0.37; 95% CI: 0.18–0.77, p = 0.007], less hospital days per month (IRR: 0.23; 95% CI: 0.11–0.49, p < 0.001) and less emergency presentations (IRR: 0.56; 95% CI: 0.34–0.94, p = 0.028. The frequency of outpatient contacts overall was two times higher for the intervention group (IRR: 2.07; 95% CI: 1.11–3.86, p = 0.022), indicating the Connector program may have shifted individuals away from the hospital system and toward community-based care. Estimated net savings of $AUD 518,701 would be achieved from adopting the Connector program, assuming enrollment of 100 patients over an average 6-month participation period. Conclusion: This combined healthcare usage and economic analysis of the ‘Compassionate Communities Connectors’ program demonstrates the benefits of optimizing palliative care services using home-based and community-centered interventions, with gains for the health system through improved patient outcomes and reduced total healthcare costs (including fewer hospitalizations and readmissions). These findings, coupled with the other published results, suggest that investment in the Connectors program has the capacity to reduce net health sector expenditure while also improving outcomes for people with life-limiting illnesses. Trial Registration: Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trial Registry: ACTRN12620000326998.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPalliative Care and Social Practice
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023

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