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Too Few Americans Pass Last Days in Hospice Care: CDC
Date:3/27/2013

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, March 27 (HealthDay News) -- Many people are still dying in hospitals, despite the fact that there has been a decrease in the number of patients who spend their final days in a setting that most would rather avoid, a new government report shows.

While the number of people admitted to U.S. hospitals increased 11 percent between 2000 and 2010, going from 31.7 million to 35.1 million, the number of people who died in hospitals dropped 8 percent, from 776,000 to 715,000, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The drop in hospital deaths occurred largely among women, the researchers found.

"That could just be that there were more older women who were able to be placed in alternative settings, because women live longer. That's just a hypothesis," said report author Margaret Jean Hall, from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). The report was released Wednesday and published in the March NCHS Data Brief.

Overall, the in-hospital death rate is 20 percent lower for people who die from their diagnosed disease, Hall said. For some conditions, however, the decrease is even greater. For example, the in-hospital death rate is down 65 percent for kidney disease, 46 percent for cancer and 27 percent for stroke, Hall noted.

"Almost all of the major reasons people [who are hospitalized die] have gone down," Hall added. "This doesn't mean they are going home or [being] cured, but they aren't dying in the hospital in as large an extent as they were in earlier years."

Because people generally prefer to die at home and not in the hospital, "this is a good sign," Hall pointed out. "But we don't know where they go right after leaving the hospital."

Many patients could be going to nursing homes or to long-term care facilities, Hall suggested. "But these alternatives are less intense and maybe closer to a setting
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