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Keywords:

  • Hospice;
  • palliative care;
  • Medicare Hospice Benefit

Objective. To determine the degree to which patients and families enrolled with hospice received services across key categories of palliative care, the extent of hospice-level variability in services delivered, and changes over time in services delivered.

Data Source. Nationally representative sample of 9,409 discharged patients from 2,066 hospices in the National Home and Hospice Care Survey.

Study Design. Observational, cross-sectional study conducted from 1992 to 2000. The primary outcome is the receipt of services across five key categories of palliative care: nursing care, physician care, medication management, psychosocial care, and caregiver support.

Data Collection. Data were obtained via interview with the hospice staff member most familiar with the patient's care, in conjunction with medical record review.

Principle Findings. In 2000, 22 percent of patients enrolled with hospice received services across five key categories of palliative care. There was marked variation across hospices in service delivery. One-third of hospices provided patients and families services in one or two of the five key categories of palliative care, whereas 14 percent of hospices provided services across five key categories of palliative care. In multivariable analysis, the odds of receiving any additional hospice service was significantly greater in later compared with earlier years (odds ratio=1.10, 95 percent confidence interval 1.01–1.20). Nevertheless, the percentages of patients in 2000 receiving medication management (59 percent), respite care (7 percent), and physician services (30 percent) remained low.

Conclusions. Hospice care for patients and families varies substantially across hospices. Whereas some hospices provide services across the key categories of palliative care, other hospices do not provide this breadth of services. Greater understanding of the causes of variation in service delivery as well as its impact on patient and family outcomes and satisfaction with end-of-life care is a critical subject for future research. Changes in Medicare's reimbursement policies may help hospices increase the range of services provided to patients and families.