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J Palliat Med. 2002 Feb;5(1):85-92.

Physicians and hospice care: attitudes, knowledge, and referrals.

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  • 1Program in Palliative Care Education and Research, Department of Family Practice, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824, USA.


Underutilization of hospice care continues to be a public health issue in the United States. Physician barriers related to incorrect knowledge and unfavorable attitudes have been hypothesized as part of the explanation. We conducted a mail survey of 264 area physicians, obtaining a response rate of 72% (n = 190). The survey examined attitudes toward, knowledge about, and perceptions of benefits and barriers to hospice care. Physicians demonstrated very positive attitudes toward hospice. They had correct knowledge about some aspects of hospice, but were uncertain about correct answers on the majority of items. They had erroneous knowledge on few items. Physicians perceived many benefits to hospice care, and identified patient and family readiness as the major barriers to earlier hospice referrals. Demographic and practice variables were related to responses on few of the survey items. These findings have many implications for outreach strategies for physicians as well as future research.

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