Background: Advance care planning is a process of discussion and review concerning future care in the event of losing capacity. Aimed at improving the appropriateness and quality of care, it is also often considered a means of making better use of healthcare resources at the end of life. Aim: To review and summarise economic evidence on advance care planning. Design: A systematic review of the academic literature. Data sources: We searched for English language, peer-reviewed journal articles, 1990-2014, using relevant research databases: PubMed, ProQuest, CINAHL Plus with Full Text; EconLit, PsycINFO, SocINDEX with Full Text and International Bibliography of the Social Sciences. Empirical studies using statistical methods in which advance care planning and costs are variables were included. Results: There are no published cost-effectiveness studies. Included studies focus on healthcare savings, usually associated with reduced demand for hospital care. Advance care planning appears to be associated with healthcare savings for some people in some circumstances, such as people living with dementia in the community, people in nursing homes or in areas with high end-of-life care spending. There is no evidence that advance care planning is likely to be more expensive. Conclusion: There is need for clearer articulation of the likely mechanisms by which advance care planning can lead to reduced care costs or improved cost-effectiveness, particularly for people who retain capacity. There is also a need to consider wider costs, including the costs of advance care planning facilitation or interventions and the costs of substitute health, social and informal care. Economic outcomes need to be considered in the context of quality benefits.
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