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

that would be preferable to the high-tech hospital," she explained.

The one area where the in-hospital death rate has increased involved cases of life-threatening blood infections, jumping 17 percent from 2000 to 2010. Whether these infections developed in the hospital isn't known because the report only deals with the conditions patients were diagnosed with when they were admitted to the hospital, Hall said.

Highlights of the report include:

  • About 25 percent of those who die in hospitals are aged 85 and older.
  • People who die in hospitals are there longer than other patients, an average of 7.9 days versus 4.8 days.
  • Fewer women died in U.S. hospitals in 2010 (364,000) than in 2000 (411,000).
  • In-hospital death rates among men haven't changed significantly.

One expert thinks the report is a good argument for better end-of-life care.

"I think this points out several key gaps in the health care system," said Dr. R. Sean Morrison, director of the National Palliative Care Research Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

One is the need for community palliative care services, he said.

Although palliative care teams are in place at most hospitals, they are still not very accessible to people in the community, he explained. "Without community palliative care, it is very hard for seriously ill persons to receive the care they need at home," Morrison said.

In addition, while insurance covers hospital care comprehensively, the cost of the same care at home is largely borne by patients because it is not covered by insurance, he noted.

"People want to be cared for where they feel safe," Morrison said. "If there are large gaps in coverage at home, even if they would prefer to be at home, they are likely to end up in hospital."

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