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Med Care. 2004 Feb;42(2):116-22.

Decreasing variation in the use of hospice among older adults with breast, colorectal, lung, and prostate cancer.

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Sealy Center on Aging, the dagger Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas 77555-0460, USA.



Utilization of hospice services has been shown to vary by place of residence and patient characteristics.


The purpose of this study was to examine whether such variation has changed over time. Hospice utilization is examined as a function of sociodemographic characteristics, geographic location, type of insurance, and year of death.


This study used a retrospective cohort design.


We used data from the linked Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER)-Medicare database to study hospice utilization in subjects aged 67 and older diagnosed with breast, colorectal, lung, or prostate cancer from 1991 to 1996 and who died between 1991 and 1999.


Of the 170,136 subjects aged 67 and older who died from 1991 through 1999, 51,345 (30.2%) were enrolled in hospice before they died. Hospice utilization varied significantly by patient characteristics, including type of insurance, age, marital status, race and ethnicity, gender, urban versus rural residence, type of cancer, income level, and education level. This variation, however, decreased over time for subgroups defined by type of insurance, marital status, urban residence, and income. Variation in hospice use increased over time as a function of age and type of cancer. There was no change in variation in use in blacks compared with non-Hispanic whites over time.


The variation in hospice use by several patient characteristics is decreasing over time, a finding consistent with the manner in which new medical technologies diffuse.

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