September 12, 2007 08:30 ET

New Study Sheds Better Light on Hospice Use Across America

ALEXANDRIA, VA--(Marketwire - September 12, 2007) - A new study sponsored by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and published in the September 2007 issue of the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management examines which diseases are bringing people into hospice care and goes on to identify hospice utilization by geographic region.

Researchers examined records of the 1,811,720 persons aged 65 and older who died in the United States in 2002.

What Researchers Discovered:

--  female decedents use hospice services more than their male
    counterparts (30 vs. 27 percent in 2002);
--  white decedents use hospice services more than blacks (29 vs. 22
    percent in 2002); and
--  overall, roughly one in three older Americans use hospice services
    (28.6 percent in 2002).

Hospice use by cause of death varied significantly and was highest for people with cancer (65 percent), followed by kidney disease/nephritis (55 percent), Alzheimer's disease (41 percent), and COPD (30 percent).

It should be noted that the three causes of death with the highest hospice utilization rates correspond to diseases that commonly impose high burdens of caregiving on family caregivers. Hospice has always included family caregivers in the care plan, offering support during and after the death of the patient.

This study also showed significant geographic differences in hospice utilization. In general, hospice use was higher throughout the South and Southwest, and lower in the Midwest and the Northeast.

States in which services were used the most included Arizona (49 percent), Colorado (45 percent), and Florida (42 percent). States in which services were used the least included Alaska (8 percent), Maine (14 percent), South Dakota (16 percent), and Wyoming (16 percent).

"With more than 1.2 million Americans receiving hospice care each year, hospice services are becoming a standard in the healthcare continuum," said J. Donald Schumacher, NHPCO president and CEO. "This new information can help provide healthcare professionals with a larger, more accurate frame of reference which they, in turn, can use when evaluating their service penetration at the state and local levels."

While previous studies have explored these topics, this study marks the first time that comprehensive national mortality and hospice utilization data have been used together to fully enumerate hospice use by Americans in a given year. Complete CDC death certificate records and CMS (100 percent) hospice claims files from 2002 were used to describe the nation's whole population of hospice and non-hospice users. Data from 2002 was utilized because it was the most recent year for which comprehensive data was available.

This study was conducted by NHPCO researchers Stephen Connor, PhD, and Carol Spence, RN, MS, in partnership with Felix Elwert, PhD, and Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD, from Harvard Medical School's Department of Health Care Policy.

More information about hospice and advance care planning is available from NHPCO's Caring Connections at or from the HelpLine, 1-800-658-8898.

Contact Information

  • Contact:
    Jon Radulovic
    Vice President of Communications
    Ph: 703-837-3139
    Email Contact