A new study published in the June issue of Health Affairs re-affirms something we in the hospice industry already know.
In the study, half of adults age 65 or older had visited a hospital emergency department in the last month of their life. But those who were in hospice care had dramatically fewer visits than those who were not, illustrating that they had a better quality of life.
The leader of the study, Alexander K. Smith, and other authors recommended that government, health care systems and insurers develop policies that encourage physicians to talk to patients and their families about end-of-life issues.
Another study bolsters that argument. Earlier this year, the American College of Chest Physicians found that patients who have had end-of-life discussions were twice as likely to rate their care as “best imaginable” than those who did not. Yet, less than 15 percent of those surveyed had discussed end of life issues with their physician.
The studies reflect that many people still don’t understand how beneficial hospice care can be for all involved. That’s disappointing, considering the number of recent studies that have validated that conclusion. The Journal of Clinical Oncology reported that back in 2010, and so did the Commonwealth Fund all the way back in 2004.
All of those studies reflect the need to further educate the public on the benefits of hospice care. Patients and their families often don’t realize how impactful hospice care can be, even as other families describe its positive impact. Educating the public will help reduce the number of emergency department visits, while providing a better outcome for all involved. That’s something we should all strive to see.