Study: Americans In Hospice Often Receive Less Than 1 Week of Care

Of ongoing concern to hospice and palliative care professionals is the fact that 34.5% of patients died or were discharged within seven days of admission, according to the latest National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) data

“While many dying Americans are opting for hospice care at the end of their lives, far too many receive care for a week or less,” says J. Donald Schumacher, PsyD, NHPCO president and CEO, in a written statement. “We need to reach patients earlier in the course of their illness to ensure they receive the full benefits that hospice and palliative care can offer.”  

NHPCO reports that an estimated 1.5 to 1.6 million patients were cared for by U.S. hospice programs in 2013. This figure remains consistent with statistics from the previous year.

NHPCO’s annual publication, Facts and Figures: Hospice Care in America, will be officially released at NHPCO’s 15th Clinical Team Conference and Pediatric Intensive hosted in Nashville, Oct. 27 through Oct. 29.

Median length of service continued to decrease to 18.5 days in 2013, meaning half of hospice patients received care for less than 18 days and half received care for more than 18 days, data show.

“There’s a common misconception that hospice care is giving up,” Schumacher says. “Nothing could be farther from the truth. Hospice provides high quality medical care and services from an interdisciplinary team of professionals and trained volunteers that maximizes quality of life and makes the wishes of the patient a priority.”

Another common misconception is that hospices care predominantly for people with cancer, he says. However, data show that the number of people with a non-cancer diagnosis continues to track at 63%, reflecting the ability of hospice providers to care for people at life’s end who may be coping with dementia, heart disease, lung disease, stroke or kidney disease.

The majority of hospice care, 66%, was provided in the home, whether the patient’s home was a private residence, nursing home, or residential facility, the report shows. 

The report also finds that in 2013, The Medicare Hospice Benefit covered 91.2% of hospice care.

Findings from the report are based on data from NHPCO’s annual survey, the National Data Set, and NHPCO membership data. Secondary sources include Medicare Provider of Services certification data, Medicare hospice cost report data, state-mandated data submissions and state association membership surveys.

Access the report here.

Written by Cassandra Dowell

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