Hospital-Based Palliative Care with Medicare Claims: Evidence From Colorado

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The prevalence of hospital-based palliative care has been largely anecdotal as an increasing service being provided and there is a need to understand what trends can be analyzed with Medicare data.


To compare 2 methods of identifying hospital-based palliative care in the Medicare population in Colorado.

Study Design:

Through Medicare claims data and phone surveys, we ascertained the presence of hospital-based palliative care services, number of patients receiving palliative care, and number of care visits provided during the previous year.

Data Sources/Study Setting:

Data were collected from every Medicare-certified hospital in Colorado during 2008 and 2013.


We measured the presence of hospital-based palliative care teams and their average number of consultations through a phone survey and cross-referenced using a v-code modifier of Medicare claims indicating a palliative care consult visit.


The number of hospital-based palliative care consultations increased five-fold from 2008-2013, and Medicare claims under-counted the number of these consultations compared to phone surveys.


The systematic measurement of palliative care nationally is a key priority. More evidence is needed from other states to better understand the usefulness of Medicare claims in this effort.

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