New Hospice Facts and Figures Released about Care in America
The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization just released its latest annual report detailing how hospice care is used in America. By examining hospice claims data from 2016 – the most recent year available – the report found that 48% of Medicare decedents were enrolled in hospice at the time of their death. And in total, 1.43 million Medicare beneficiaries received hospice care in 2016. The report also revealed key changes in the type of patients receiving care and shows most beneficiaries continue to underutilize their hospice benefits.
Cancer Deaths Decline
Perhaps the biggest new finding in this year’s report is the dramatic decline of cancer patients receiving hospice care. In 2016, patients with a principle diagnosis of cancer represented 27.2% of all patients served. This represents a roughly 10 point drop over 2014 and demonstrates the progress medicine has made treating this disease. But it’s not all good news. Patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia rose to 18.5%, up almost four four points from 2014.
“When hospice first became available as a covered benefit under Medicare in 1983, the overwhelming majority of patients had cancer,” said NHPCO President and CEO Edo Banach. “That has changed in recent years as we’ve seen hospices caring for more people with a cardiac or circulatory diagnosis (18.7 percent), a respiratory illness (11 percent), and the fastest growing diagnosis of dementia.”
This new information serves as a timely reminder for the families of cardiac patients. In previous posts we’ve discussed congestive heart failure and examined how these patients benefit from hospice care. And as the Silver Tsunami continues in America, the rates of dementia will only grow.
Hospice Care is an Underutilized Benefit
We’ve dedicated several past posts to examining why hospice stay rates are falling in the United States. In many cases, it’s because there continues to be a stubborn misunderstanding about the true nature of hospice care. In other cases, changes in Medicare benefits have caused some doctors to be more conservative in recommending hospice to end-stage patients. But no matter the reason, they work to cause beneficiaries to delay enrolling in hospice long after they could begin benefitting from that care.
The 2016 report shows that this trend is continuing. In fact, nearly 40% of Medicare beneficiaries received care for 14 days or less in 2016. Industry experts consider these stay lengths far too short for patients to receive the full benefits of hospice care. “The hospice interdisciplinary team is ideally suited to provide care and support to patients and family caregivers throughout the last months of life, not just the last days,” noted Banach.
These results show that the hospice industry must continue its education campaign so that more end-stage patients realize the benefits early enrollment offers.
Want to Learn More?
Although this report reveals important new information about the state of hospice care in America, it also provides important action items for the industry as a whole. Hospice organizations need to continue their outreach efforts and better explain the benefits of whole-person care. Especially among end-stage dementia and cardiovascular patients. As these patient groups continue to grow, they need to understand how they’ll benefit from longer-term hospice care.
If you’d like to learn more about hospice care, we’d love to talk. You can call us at (602)-497-4100 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Southland Hospice serves the greater Phoenix area and aim to improve the quality-of-life for patients during their final transitions.