The inverse relationship between cost and survival in the critically ill cancer patient

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The enormous cost of intensive multiple organ system support is apparent from patient or third party charges of $1500–$2000 per day exclusive of physician fees sampled during a retrospective review of 700 consecutive recent admissions to the Critical Care Facility of Memorial Cancer Center. Mortality rates of 49% for general medical, 54% for lymphoma or leukemia, and 20% for surgery patients suggest the need for a selective admission and discharge policy which concentrates financial and personnel resources on those for whom there remains a reasonable chance of worthwhile palliation, if not cure, of their malignancy.

An informal policy of this kind may have contributed to a 10% increase in hospital discharges and a reduction of in-unit mortality from 22–18% when compared to 1035 earlier unselected admissions.

A modified version of the classification suggested by the Critical Care Committee of the Massachusetts General Hospital has been adopted for use at this institution. A similar approach by other cancer centers is urged so that predictive indices based on prognosis of the underlying disease as well as physiological status may be developed. Otherwise, cost-benefit analysis by third party payers or government will become an unavoidable, and less satisfactory, alternative.

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