Hospice patients in SNFs less likely to get staff visits in last 2 days of life

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Medicare patients who received hospice care in a nursing home setting were less likely to be visited by professional staff in the last two days of life, according to a new study.

The study, published online in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that 16.5% of hospice patients in nursing homes had no visits from professional hospice staff in the last two days of life, compared to 10.6% of patients not in nursing homes.

Smaller hospice programs, and those based in nursing homes, were less likely to provide visits in the last two days of life, the study found.

Researchers also noted differences in visits based on patient characteristics. Close to 15% of black patients had no visits on their last two days, compared to 12% of white patients. One in five patients who died on a Sunday also did not have a visit from professional hospice staff in their last two days of life.

The authors noted that their study did not take into account the severity of the symptoms of the hospice patients, or family preferences for visits. The results still pinpoint disparities in hospice care, researchers said, which is especially relevant as the Centers for Medicare & Medicare Services evaluates reforms.