Objectives: To evaluate selected hospice admission practices that could represent barriers to hospice use and the association between these admission practices and organizational characteristics.
Design: From December 1999 to March 2000, hospices were surveyed about selected admission practices, and their responses were linked to the 1999 California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development's Home and Hospice Care Survey that describes organizational characteristics of California hospices.
Setting: California statewide.
Participants: One hundred of 149 (67%) operational licensed hospices.
Measurements: Whether hospices admit patients who lack a caregiver; would not forgo hospital admissions; or are receiving total parenteral nutrition (TPN), tube feedings, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or transfusions.
Results: Sixty-three percent of hospices restricted admission on at least one criterion. A significant minority of hospices would not admit patients lacking a caregiver (26%). Patients unwilling to forgo hospitalization could not be admitted to 29% of hospices. Receipt of complex medical care, including TPN (38%), tube feedings (3%), transfusions (25%), radiotherapy (36%), and chemotherapy (48%), precluded admission. Larger program size was significantly associated with a lower likelihood of all admission practices except restricting the admission of patients receiving TPN or tube feedings. Hospice programs that were part of a hospice chain were less likely to restrict the admission of patients using TPN, radiotherapy, or chemotherapy than were freestanding programs.
Conclusion: Patients who are receiving complex palliative treatments could face barriers to hospice enrollment. Policy makers should consider the clinical capacity of hospice providers in efforts to improve access to palliative care and more closely incorporate palliation with other healthcare services.