Referral Versus Embedded Palliative Care Consultation Among People Hospitalized With Heart Failure: A Report From a Single Center Pilot Program

Anup Bharani, Ankita Mehta, Karen Hiensch, Li Zeng, Anuradha Lala, Sean Pinney, Nathan Goldstein, Emily Chai, Laura P. Gelfman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Context: Despite calls for integration into routine heart failure (HF) care, optimal palliative care delivery for people living with HF remains unclear. Objectives: Describe an innovative model of an embedded palliative care nurse practitioner (NP) within a HF team. Compare demographics and utilization among people hospitalized with HF receiving referral or embedded consultation. Methods: Using an electronic health record-based palliative care registry, we conducted descriptive analyses and t‐tests and χ2 tests, as appropriate, to examine bivariate associations between sociodemographic, clinical and utilization data of hospitalized people with HF receiving a traditional, referral-based palliative care consultation generated exclusively by the primary team vs. a novel, embedded-based consultation generated by collaboration between a palliative care NP and the advanced HF team at an urban, quaternary care academic medical center in New York City. Results: During the study period from January 1, 2019–December 31, 2021, consultation volume nearly doubled with 363 consults from traditional referrals and an additional 317 consults from the newly embedded NP. People in the embedded group, as compared to referral, were younger (mean age: 60.1 vs. 71.9 years (2019); 59.2 vs. 70.4 (2020); 61.3 vs. 69.6 (2021), p-value < 0.001), more functional (median Karnofsky Performance Status: 40% vs. 30%, p-value = 0.01 (2019); 40% vs 20%, p-value < 0.0001 (2020); 40% vs. 20%, p-value = 0.02 (2021)), more likely had capacity to designate a medical decision maker (56.4% vs. 20.6%, p-value < 0.001 (2020); 76.3% vs. 49.5%, p-value < 0.001 (2021)), received earlier consultation (median days before discharge: 9.5 vs. 4 (2019); 11 vs. 5 (2020); 7 vs. 3 (2021), p-value ≤ 0.001), and more likely to discharge home (60% vs. 26%, p-value ≤ 0.001 (2019); 62.7% vs 20.6%, p-value ≤ 0.001 (2020); 42.3% vs. 28%, p-value = 0.03 (2021)). Conclusion: Hospitalized people living with advanced HF who received an embedded palliative care consult were younger, had higher functional status and less illness severity compared to those served by a traditional, referral-based consult.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-249
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number3
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Palliative care
  • advance care planning
  • embedded
  • heart failure
  • model of care delivery


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