Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Hospice services in rural areas can cut medical costs

"Expanding the use of hospice services among rural residents in the last six months of their lives could reduce patients’ need for more expensive and inconvenient medical treatments, a new report suggests," Tim Marema reports for The Daily Yonder.

The South Carolina Rural Health Research Center analyzed a sample of Medicare records and found that 44 percent of rural Medicare patients who died in the last six months of 2013 used hospice services. More than half of their urban counterparts used hospice.
Graph by South Carolina Rural Health Research Center: click to enlarge
 That's significant because "patients who use hospice services are less likely to visit a doctor’s office, be admitted to hospitals, or require an ambulance, the study said. That can save money and allow patients to spend less time going to and from appointments and undergoing exams and treatments," Marema reports. Hospice patients in both rural and urban areas were less likely to use skilled nursing facilities or receive in-home health-care services.

The percentage of rural Medicare patients who used hospice care has increased more than 140 percent from 2000 to 2014. But access to hospice and palliative care in rural areas can be challenging because of possible factors like a lack of family caregivers living nearby, financial reimbursement issues, lack of qualified staff, and too-large travel distances, according to the Rural Health Information Hub.

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