IMPORTANCE: The need for integrating palliative care into surgical services has been established within the surgical literature. The ability to effectively screen, obtain an appropriately timed consultation, and determine the effect of consultation remains problematic. OBJECTIVE: To examine surgical palliative care consultations over time and their relationship to the initiation and implementation of a system wide frailty-screening program. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS We reviewed all surgical palliative care consultations performed between January 1, 2006, and August 31, 2013, and abstracted the referring service (medicine/surgery), date of surgery (if any), date of death (if any), and all variables required to calculate a frailty score using the risk analysis index. We examined changes in mortality and referral patterns before and after implementation of the frailty-screening program using multivariable logistic regression. EXPOSURES: Surgical palliative care consultations, including frailty screening. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: The primary study outcomes were 30-, 180-, and 360-day mortality. RESULTS: From 2006 to 2013, a total of 310 palliative care consultations were ordered for surgical patients: 160 before initiation of frailty screening (January 1, 2011) and 150 after initiation of the program. The groups had similar demographics, comorbidities, and frailty scores. After initiation, we observed dramatically decreased mortality at 30, 180, and 360 days (21.3%vs 31.9%, 44.0%vs 70.6%, and 66.0%vs 78.8%, respectively; all P < .05). This coincided with an increased rate of palliative care consultations from 32 per year to 56 per year. After initiation of the program, consultations were more likely to be requested by surgeons (56.7%vs 24.4%; P < .05) and were more likely to occur before the index operation (52.0% vs 26.3%; P < .05). Implementation of the screening program was associated with a 33%reduction in 180-day mortality (odds ratio [OR], 0.37; 95%CI, 0.22-0.62; P < .001) even after controlling for age, frailty, and whether the patients had surgery. Modeled mortality was also reduced when the palliative care consultation was ordered by a surgeon (OR, 0.50; CI, 0.30-0.83; P = .007) or ordered before the operation (OR, 0.52; CI, 0.30-0.90; P = .02). CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Our data suggest that a systematic frailty-screening program effectively identifies at-risk surgical patients and is associated with a significant reduction in mortality for patients undergoing palliative care consultation. Analysis also suggests that preoperative palliative care consultations ordered by surgeons are associated with reduced mortality rates.
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