For patients with advanced cancer, timely referral to palliative care (PC) services can ensure that end-of-life care aligns with their preferences and goals. Overestimation of life expectancy may result in underutilization of PC services, counterproductive treatment measures, and reduced quality of life for patients. We assessed the impact of a commercially available augmented intelligence (AI) tool to predict 30-day mortality risk on PC service utilization in a real-world setting.
Patients within a large hematology-oncology practice were scored weekly between June 2018 and October 2019 with an AI tool to generate insights into short-term mortality risk. Patients identified by the tool as being at high or medium risk were assessed for a supportive care visit and further referred as appropriate. Average monthly rates of PC and hospice referrals were calculated 5 months predeployment and 17 months postdeployment of the tool in the practice.
The mean rate of PC consults increased from 17.3 to 29.1 per 1,000 patients per month (PPM) pre- and postdeployment, whereas the mean rate of hospice referrals increased from 0.2 to 1.6 per 1,000 PPM. Eliminating the first 6 months following deployment to account for user learning curve, the mean rate of PC consults nearly doubled over baseline to 33.0 and hospice referrals increased 12-fold to 2.4 PPM.
Deployment of an AI tool at a hematology-oncology practice was found to be feasible for identifying patients at high or medium risk for short-term mortality. Insights generated by the tool drove clinical practice changes, resulting in significant increases in PC and hospice referrals.