Noncancer diagnoses make length of service hard to predict

February 2009
Hospice Management Advisor;Feb2009, Vol. 14 Issue 2, p13
The typical hospice patient in the 1990s was a cancer patient who was in hospice care for about 40 days. Today, patients have a wide range of diagnoses and are in hospice care for an average length of 67.4 days, according to NHPCO Facts and Figures: Hospice Care in America. At the same tinne, the median length of service (50th percentile) shortened from 20.6 days in 2006 to 20 days in 2007. • The prognoses for heart and lung diseases are harder to predict than for cancer, so physicians are not referring patients to hospice as early. • Staffing challenges for hospice managers include providing a mix of patients with different lengths of service so that employees don't deal with patients dying every day. • Hospice patients also are older (36.6% over age 85), which means that staff have to handle multiple chronic conditions in addition to family issues that don't exist for younger patients.


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