The value of end-of-life discussions

My lede:

Three studies published in March highlighted the importance of improving physicians’ conversations with dying patients.

Previous studies have shown that the 5% of Medicare patients who die each year account for 30% of Medicare’s costs, with 78% of last-year-of-life expenses occurring in the month before death. But there may be a way to help reduce these costs, according a March 9 Archives of Internal Medicine study of 603 dying cancer patients at seven hospitals, oncology clinics and hospices.

The study found that patients who had conversations with their doctors about whether to focus on life extension or pain relief were more likely to die at home and spent less time in intensive care units, undergoing chemotherapy or on ventilators. Patients benefiting from talks with their doctors had a slightly better quality of life and survived just as long as those who did not have end-of-life-care discussions with physicians.

The whole shebang.