Association of Hospice Agency Profit Status With Patient Diagnosis, Location of Care, and Length of Stay | End of Life | JAMA | JAMA Network
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Original Contribution
February 2, 2011

Association of Hospice Agency Profit Status With Patient Diagnosis, Location of Care, and Length of Stay

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Division of General Medicine and Primary Care (Drs Wachterman, Davis, and McCarthy), Divisions of General Medicine and Primary Care and Gerontology (Dr Marcantonio), Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.

JAMA. 2011;305(5):472-479. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.70

Context Medicare's per diem payment structure may create financial incentives to select patients who require less resource-intensive care and have longer hospice stays. For-profit and nonprofit hospices may respond differently to financial incentives.

Objective To compare patient diagnosis and location of care between for-profit and nonprofit hospices and examine whether number of visits per day and length of stay vary by diagnosis and profit status.

Design, Setting, and Patients Cross-sectional study using data from the 2007 National Home and Hospice Care Survey. Nationally representative sample of 4705 patients discharged from hospice.

Main Outcome Measures Diagnosis and location of care (home, nursing home, hospital, residential hospice, or other) by hospice profit status. Hospice length of stay and number of visits per day by various hospice personnel.

Results For-profit hospices (1087 discharges from 145 agencies), compared with nonprofit hospices (3618 discharges from 524 agencies), had a lower proportion of patients with cancer (34.1%; 95% CI, 29.9%-38.6%, vs 48.4%; 95% CI, 45.0%-51.8%) and a higher proportion of patients with dementia (17.2%; 95% CI, 14.1%-20.8%, vs 8.4%; 95% CI, 6.6%-10.6%) and other noncancer diagnoses (48.7%; 95% CI, 43.2%-54.1%, vs 43.2%; 95% CI, 40.0%-46.5%; adjusted P < .001). After adjustment for demographic, clinical, and agency characteristics, there was no significant difference in location of care by profit status. For-profit hospices compared with nonprofit hospices had a significantly longer length of stay (median, 20 days; interquartile range [IQR], 6-88, vs 16 days; IQR, 5-52 days; adjusted P = .01) and were more likely to have patients with stays longer than 365 days (6.9%; 95% CI, 5.0%-9.4%, vs 2.8%; 95% CI, 2.0%-4.0%) and less likely to have patients with stays of less than 7 days (28.1%; 95% CI, 23.9%-32.7%, vs 34.3%; 95% CI, 31.3%-37.3%; P = .005). Compared with cancer patients, those with dementia or other diagnoses had fewer visits per day from nurses (0.50 visits; IQR, 0.32-0.87, vs 0.37 visits; IQR, 0.20-0.78, and 0.41 visits; IQR, 0.26-0.79, respectively; adjusted P = .002) and social workers (0.15 visits; IQR, 0.07-0.31, vs 0.11 visits; IQR, 0.04-0.27, and 0.14 visits; IQR, 0.07-0.31, respectively; adjusted P < .001).

Conclusion Compared with nonprofit hospice agencies, for-profit hospice agencies had a higher percentage of patients with diagnoses associated with lower-skilled needs and longer lengths of stay.