The big increase in for-profit US hospices in recent years is both positive and debatable news, researchers report. We found a story that spotlights current report findings as well as the need for more research on for-profit and non-profit hospice care in the US.
A recent survey-based study suggests that for-profit hospices more often reach out to minorities and people with low incomes, reports Melissa Aldridge, PhD, of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. Yet those hospices were less likely to provide community benefits such as hospice training and research, Aldridge and her colleagues reported online in JAMA Internal Medicine.
The growth in for-profit hospice care is both dramatic – from 5% in 1990 to 51% in 2011 – and occasionally debated. Aldridge and her colleagues say there is now a shortage of 12,000 hospice and palliative medicine physicians, with training programs producing only 180 fellows annually, “a number that does not replace those retiring from the field.” They stress that the increase in for-profit hospice care in the US means that, “new ways to ensure continued training and research should be considered.”
Further, in the past, hospice care has mainly targeted, “white middle-class cancer patients” according to Kimberly Johnson, M.D. of Duke University. A 2013 Washington Post investigation suggested that non-profit hospice care was costing Medicare billions by enrolling patients who spent longer in care.
Yet overall, the recent increase in the number of hospices driven by the growth of for-profit programs “has still been a good thing for seriously ill patients,” says Dr. Johnson.
Most research on the difference between for-profit and nonprofit hospices has focused on service delivery, but there has been less study of how hospice ownership affects things like community benefits and community outreach.
Dr. Aldridge’s study concludes by emphasizing that it is most important to ensure that profitable patient hospice programs do not affect care. Duke University’s Dr. Johnson believes that the ownership status of hospices matters less than the well-being of patients.
Read the full story, including analysis from the report statistics, here.