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Hospice Helps Dying Patients Avoid Hospitalization
by: Robert Preidt

U.S. nursing-home residents in hospice care are half as likely to spend their final 30 days of life in a hospital than residents who aren't in hospice care, researchers report.

Investigators at Brown Medical School in Providence, R.I., analyzed data from nearly 184,000 nursing home residents in five states.

"Our study provides strong evidence that access to hospice care in nursing homes significantly reduces hospitalization," study author Pedro Gozalo said in a prepared statement.

He noted that people who choose hospice care tend to refuse aggressive end-of-life treatment. Even when this was factored in, the study still found that hospice has a major impact in keeping people out of a hospital in their dying days.

That's important, because being in hospital may have a negative impact on a person's quality of life in their final days. In additions, this kind of hospital care can be expensive.

Nursing home residents who receive hospice care are more likely to have cancer, be female, white and married. The study also found that a nursing home's location can affect hospice enrolment. In nursing homes with hospice providers more than 15 miles away, there were fewer residents in hospice care.

While about 80 percent of U.S. nursing homes offer hospice care, there are still a number of factors that can affect access to these services, Gozalo said. These include failing to identify residents who need hospice; local health system policy; and financial incentives for nursing homes to continue providing skilled care.

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