Geographic Access to Hospice in the United States

Carlson, Melissa D. A.; Bradley, Elizabeth H.; Qingling Du; Morrison, R. Sean
November 2010
Journal of Palliative Medicine;Nov2010, Vol. 13 Issue 11, p1331
Academic Journal
Background: Despite a 41% increase in the number of hospices since 2000, more than 60% of Americans die without hospice care. Given that hospice care is predominantly home based, proximity to a hospice is important in ensuring access to hospice services. We estimated the proportion of the population living in communities within 30 and 60 minutes driving time of a hospice. Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study of geographic access to U.S. hospices using the 2008 Medicare Provider of Services data, U.S. Census data, and ArcGIS software. We used multivariate logistic regression to identify gaps in hospice availability by community characteristics. Results: As of 2008, 88% of the population lived in communities within 30 minutes and 98% lived in communities within 60 minutes of a hospice. Mean time to the nearest hospice was 15 minutes and the range was 0 to 403 minutes. Community characteristics independently associated with greater geographic access to hospice included higher population density, higher median income, higher educational attainment, higher percentage of black residents, and the state not having a Certificate of Need policy. The percentage of each state's population living in communities more than 30 minutes from a hospice ranged from 0% to 48%. Conclusions: Recent growth in the hospice industry has resulted in widespread geographic access to hospice care in the United States, although state and community level variation exists. Future research regarding variation and disparities in hospice use should focus on barriers other than geographic proximity to a hospice.


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