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J Pain Symptom Manage. 2007 Aug;34(2):120-5. Epub 2007 Jun 21.

Timing of referral to hospice and quality of care: length of stay and bereaved family members' perceptions of the timing of hospice referral.

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The Warren Alpert Medical School of Medicine at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 20912, USA.


Previous research has noted that many persons are referred to hospice in the last days of life. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization collaborated with Brown Medical School to create the Family Evaluation of Hospice Care (FEHC) data repository. In 2005, 106,514 surveys from 631 hospices were submitted with complete data on the hospice length of stay and bereaved family member perceptions of the timing of hospice care. Of these surveys, 11.4% of family members believed that they were referred "too late" to hospice. This varied from 0 to 28.1% among the participating hospice programs with 30 or more surveys. Among those with hospice lengths of stay of less than a month, only 16.2% reported they were referred "too late." Although the bereaved family member perceptions of the quality of end-of-life care did not vary by length of stay for each of the FEHC domains, the perception of being referred "too late" was associated with more unmet needs, higher reported concerns, and lower satisfaction. Our results suggest that family members' perception of the timing of hospice referral-not the length of stay-is associated with the quality of hospice care. This perception varies substantially among the participating hospice programs. Future research is needed to understand this variation and how hospice programs are delivering high quality of care despite short length of stay.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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