Few Dying in Hospice Despite Decline in Hospital Deaths: Study

Despite research finding that most Americans prefer to die in their own homes, more are living their last days in hospital settings, according to a recent study

Although that number of hospital deaths decreased 8% between 2000-2010, there were still over 700,000 patients who died in the hospital in 2010, according to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

In most cases, individuals who died during their hospital stays were seniors. 

While the average age of patients who died was 72-73 years old, about 25% were aged 85 or older during 2000-2010. 

These patients often had longer stays than most patients, the study notes, with those who died staying an average of 7.9 days compared with 4.8 days for all patients. 

Whereas male deaths did not change significantly during this time, researchers found that women experienced the largest drop in inpatient hospital deaths, decreasing 411,000 in 2000 to 364,000 in 2010.

“That could just be that there were more older women who were able to be placed in alternative settings, because women live longer,” said report author Margaret Jean Hall, from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). “That’s just a hypothesis.”

The inpatient death rate is 20% lower for people who die from diagnosed disease, the study notes, but for some conditions, the decrease is even greater. 

The death rate for kidney disease declined 65%, cancer declined 46% and stroke also decreased 27%, according to Hall. 

Even though the major illness that result in hospitalized deaths have gone down, Hall notes, this does not mean people are going home or being cured. This just means that they are not dying in the hospital in as large an extent as they were in earlier years, she says. 

Many patients could be going to nursing homes or to long-term care facilities, Hall suggests, but these alternatives might be less intense and maybe closer to a setting that would be preferable to the high-tech hospital.

Experts have made the case that this study is a valid argument for better end-of-life care, according to an U.S. News article

However, gaps in the healthcare system provides roadblocks to individuals receiving the end-of-life care they desire, as health insurance covers hospital care, but might not cover hospice or palliative services. 

“People want to be cared for where they feel safe,” Morrison told U.S. News. “If there are large gaps in the coverage at home, even if they would prefer to be at home, they are likely to end up in the hospital.”

Read the U.S. News article

Written by Jason Oliva

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