Has Hospice Use Changed? 2000–2010 Utilization Patterns

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Background:Hospice use has increased substantially during the past decade by an increasingly diverse patient population; however, little is known about patterns of hospice use and how these patterns have changed during the past decade.Objective:To characterize Medicare hospice users in 2000 and 2010 and estimate the prevalence of (1) very short (≤1 wk) hospice enrollment; (2) very long (>6 mo) hospice enrollment; and (3) hospice disenrollment and how these utilization patterns have varied over time and by patient and hospice characteristics.Research Design:Cross-sectional analysis of Medicare hospice claims data from 2000 and 2010.Subjects:All US Medicare Hospice Benefit enrollees in 2000 (N=529,573) and 2010 (N=1,150,194).Results:As of 2010, more than half (53.4%) of all Medicare decedents who used hospice had either very short (≤1 wk, 32.4%) or very long (>6 mo, 13.9%) hospice enrollment or disenrolled from hospice before death (10.6%). This represents an increase of 4.9 percentage points from 2000. In multivariable analysis, patients with noncancer diagnoses, the fastest growing group of hospice users, were approximately twice as likely as those with cancer to have very short or long enrollment periods and to disenroll from hospice.Conclusion:The substantial proportion of hospice users with very short or long enrollment, or enrollments that end before death, underscores the potential for interventions to improve the timing and appropriateness of hospice referral so that the full benefits of hospice are received by patients and families.

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