PURPOSE: Patients with cancer represent the largest diagnostic group of hospice users, with 560,000 referred for hospice in 2008. Oncologists rely on hospice teams to provide care for patients who have completed disease-directed treatment and desire to remain at home. However, 11% to 15% of hospice users disenroll from hospice, and little is known about their health care use and Medicare expenditures.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: We used Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results-Medicare data for hospice users who died as a result of cancer between 1998 and 2002 (N = 90,826) to compare rates of hospitalization, emergency department, and intensive care unit admission and hospital death for hospice disenrollees and those who remained with hospice until death. We also compared per-day and total Medicare expenditures across the two groups.
RESULTS: Patients with cancer who disenrolled from hospice were more likely to be hospitalized (39.8% v 1.6%; P < .001), more likely to be admitted to the emergency department (33.9% v 3.1%; P < .001) or intensive care unit (5.7% v 0.1%; P < .001), and more likely to die in the hospital (9.6% v 0.2%; P < .001). Patients who disenrolled from hospice died a median of 24 days following disenrollment, suggesting that the reason for hospice disenrollment was not improved health. In multivariable analyses, hospice disenrollees incurred higher per-day Medicare expenditures than patients who remained with hospice until death (higher per-day expenditures of $124; P < .001).
CONCLUSION: Hospice disenrollment is a marker for higher health care use and expenditures for care. Strategies to manage a patient's care and support family caregivers following hospice disenrollment may be beneficial and should be explored.
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