Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cancer Patients who Disenroll from Hospice have Increased Hospitalizations

They are less likely to Die at Home

Disenrollment can have a Physical and Financial Toll

According to a new study, patients with terminal cancer that disenrolled from hospice care had significantly higher rates of hospitalizations – including admission to the emergency department and intensive care unit – than patients who remained under the care of hospice. Furthermore, patients who disenrolled from hospice were more likely to die in the hospital than patients who remained with hospice until their deaths.

“Impact of Hospice Disenrollment on Healthcare Use and Medical Expenditures for Patients with Cancer” is published in the October 1, 2010 issue of Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The study, led by researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, found that:

• 33.9 percent of the patients who disenrolled from hospice care were admitted to an emergency department, in contrast with only 3.1 percent of hospice patients.
• 39.8 percent of disenrolled patients were admitted to the hospital as an inpatient, in contrast with only 1.6 percent of hospice patients.
• Disenrolled patients spent an average of 19.3 days in the hospital, whereas hospice patients spent an average of 6.7 days.
• 9.6 percent of disenrolled patients died in the hospital, compared to only 0.2 percent of hospice patients.
• Costs of care for patients with cancer who disenrolled from hospice were nearly five times higher than for patients who remained with hospice.

Wrote the study authors, “Policy makers have called for tightening eligibility restrictions for the MHB (Medicare Hospice Benefit) as part of a wider effort to reduce high Medicare expenditures; our results suggest that addressing hospice disenrollment may be an effective means of reducing Medicare expenditures for hospice users without restriction access to the MHB.”

Further recommendations suggest that oncologists explore outpatient palliative care services that offer multidisciplinary care, symptom control, and end-of-life planning expertise in a context that enables a patient and family to maintain contact with the oncology clinic.

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