Your recent coverage of the Journal of American Medical Association study on hospice care (“Hospice use increases but aggressive care still common,”) gives this important subject the attention it deserves and highlights some alarming trends. The first is access. The study references a “sharp” increase in hospice utilization, still less than half of patients studied were enrolled in hospice when they died. This is consistent with other national studies. End-of-life care also cannot be ignored in the national effort to contain healthcare costs. Medicare pays tens of billions annually for physician visits and hospital bills during the last two months of patients' lives, often without improving quality of life. Hospice keeps patients comfortable at home instead of in and out of hospital emergency rooms and intensive-care units. The value: greater efficiency in our healthcare system and, most importantly, better quality of life for patients in declining health.
Corina TracySenior vice president of national operations,Hospice Compassus, Brentwood, Tenn.