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Palliat Med. 2001 Nov;15(6):471-80.

The emergence of Medicare hospice care in US nursing homes.

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Center for Gerontology and Health Care Research, Department of Community Health, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA.


Although Medicare-financed hospice care has been provided in nursing homes in the USA for over 10 years, very little is known regarding the use of this government health care benefit in nursing homes. Using resident assessment data and hospice and inpatient Medicare claim data from five US states, we were able to identify and describe nursing home residents receiving hospice care between 1992 and 1996, and their hospice utilization patterns. Six per cent of all dying nursing home residents received hospice care at some point in time and, in 1996, an estimated 24% of all Medicare hospice patients in the five study states received hospice while in a nursing home. Of those residents beginning hospice care after nursing home admission, 48% were 85 years or older, 70% were female, 94% were white, 76% were unmarried and 62% had a non-cancer principal diagnosis. The average length of stay in the hospice programme for residents receiving hospice care while in the nursing home was 90.6 days, the median 35 and the mode 2. Hospice care in US nursing homes is a prevalent model of care that appears further to extend the Medicare hospice benefit to older adults who are female and to those with non-cancer diagnoses. Lengths of stay in the programme are similar to those observed in the community and the average length of stay is substantially shorter than previously estimated by an influential government study.

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