Studies offer mixed results on cost benefits of hospice care

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Financial outlook is grim for not-for-profits, analyst says
Financial outlook is grim for not-for-profits, analyst says

Increased use of hospice care services could help rein in healthcare spending at the end of life, according to one study. But another study indicates that hospice is not a silver bullet, Reuters Health reported.

Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles found that the use of hospice care by terminal prostate cancer patients jumped from 30% in 1992 to 60% in 2005, Reuters said. These hospice patients were roughly 20% less likely to receive costly, high-intensity care, and were also less likely to undergo imaging tests. While their report did not look at costs, researchers say there is evidence that increased use of hospice care, especially for cancer patients, can cut healthcare costs, according to Reuters. The report findings were published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Another study of terminal heart failure patients did not indicate any cost savings from increased use of hospice services. A team from the Duke University School of Medicine analyzed the records of 230,000 Medicare heart failure patients who died between 2000 and 2007, Reuters reported. Though the rate of hospice care climbed from 19% in 2000 to 40% in 2007, the rate of costly hospitalizations remained at roughly 80%, researchers found. Healthcare costs for this group during the last six months of life rose from $28,000 per patient to $36,000 per patient. The Duke study also appeared in the Archives of Internal Medicine.