Early Palliative Care Consultation in the Medical ICU: A Cluster Randomized Crossover Trial

Jessica Ma, Stephen Chi, Benjamin Buettner, Katherine Pollard, Monica Muir, Charu Kolekar, Noor Al-Hammadi, Ling Chen, Marin Kollef, Maria Dans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Objectives: To assess the impact of early triggered palliative care consultation on the outcomes of high-risk ICU patients. Design: Single-center cluster randomized crossover trial. Setting: Two medical ICUs at Barnes Jewish Hospital. Patients: Patients (n = 199) admitted to the medical ICUs from August 2017 to May 2018 with a positive palliative care screen indicating high risk for morbidity or mortality. Interventions: The medical ICUs were randomized to intervention or usual care followed by washout and crossover, with independent assignment of patients to each ICU at admission. Intervention arm patients received a palliative care consultation from an interprofessional team led by board-certified palliative care providers within 48 hours of ICU admission. Measurements and Main Results: Ninety-seven patients (48.7%) were assigned to the intervention and 102 (51.3%) to usual care. Transition to do-not-resuscitate/do-not-intubate occurred earlier and significantly more often in the intervention group than the control group (50.5% vs 23.4%; p < 0.0001). The intervention group had significantly more transfers to hospice care (18.6% vs 4.9%; p < 0.01) with fewer ventilator days (median 4 vs 6 d; p < 0.05), tracheostomies performed (1% vs 7.8%; p < 0.05), and postdischarge emergency department visits and/or readmissions (17.3% vs 38.9%; p < 0.01). Although total operating cost was not significantly different, medical ICU (p < 0.01) and pharmacy (p < 0.05) operating costs were significantly lower in the intervention group. There was no significant difference in ICU length of stay (median 5 vs 5.5 d), hospital length of stay (median 10 vs 11 d), in-hospital mortality (22.6% vs 29.4%), or 30-day mortality between groups (35.1% vs 36.3%) (p > 0.05). Conclusions: Early triggered palliative care consultation was associated with greater transition to do-not-resuscitate/do-not-intubate and to hospice care, as well as decreased ICU and post-ICU healthcare resource utilization. Our study suggests that routine palliative care consultation may positively impact the care of high risk, critically ill patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1707-1715
Number of pages9
JournalCritical care medicine
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


  • cardiopulmonary resuscitation
  • critical care
  • outcome assessment
  • palliative care
  • quality improvement
  • utilization review


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