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Med Care. 2016 Jul;54(7):672-8. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000000547.

End-of-Life Care Intensity and Hospice Use: A Regional-level Analysis.

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*Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology, Yale University School of Public Health †Cancer Outcomes, Public Policy, and Effectiveness Research (COPPER) Center, Yale Cancer Center and Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT ‡Department of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York §James J. Peters VA Medical Center, Bronx, NY ∥Section of General Internal Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine ¶Department of Health Policy and Management, Yale University School of Public Health, New Haven #John D. Thompson Hospice Institute for Education, Training, and Research Inc., Branford, Connecticut, CT.



Despite increased hospice use over the last decade, end-of-life care intensity continues to increase. To understand this puzzle, we sought to examine regional variation in intensive end-of-life care and determine its associations with hospice use patterns.


Using Medicare claims for decedents aged 66 years and above in 2011, we assessed end-of-life care intensity in the last 6 months of life across hospital referral regions (HRRs) as measured by proportion of decedents per HRR experiencing hospitalization, emergency department use, intensive care unit (ICU) admission, and number of days spent in hospital (hospital-days) and ICU (ICU-days). Using hierarchical generalized linear models and adjusting for patient characteristics, we examined whether these measures were associated with overall hospice use, very short (≤7 d), medium (8-179 d), or very long (≥180 d) hospice enrollment, focusing on very short stay.


End-of-life care intensity and hospice use patterns varied substantially across HRRs. Regional-level end-of-life care intensity was positively correlated with very short hospice enrollment. Comparing HRRs in the highest versus the lowest quintiles of intensity in end-of-life care, regions with more intensive care had higher rates of very short hospice enrollment, with adjusted odds ratios (AOR) 1.14 [99% confidence interval (CI), 1.04-1.25] for hospitalization; AOR, 1.23 (CI, 1.12-1.36) for emergency department use; AOR, 1.25 (CI, 1.14-1.38) for ICU admission; AOR, 1.10 (CI, 1.00-1.21) for hospital-days; and AOR, 1.20 (CI, 1.08-1.32) for ICU-days.


At the regional level, increased end-of-life care intensity was consistently associated with very short hospice use.

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