Studies show that hospice care increases patient and family satisfaction and, on average, adds 29 days of life compared to patients who do not receive hospice care. Yet more than 50 percent of all hospice patients receive services for 14 days or less, with 35.5 percent receiving hospice care for only seven days or less (Source: NHPCO). The Medicare hospice benefit allows 180 days of hospice care.

Considerations for Timely Hospice Referrals

In addition to forgoing curative treatments, Medicare requires that hospice-eligible patients be given a prognosis of living six months or less by two physicians. Accurately predicting life expectancy can be a challenge, especially as medical advances continue to offer options for prolonging life.

Harvard physician and researcher Nicholas Christakis conducted a study that showed 61 percent of physicians overestimated their patients’ survival time, and the average amount of time for the overestimation was 526 percent.

These statistics are not offered to question or criticize any physician’s ability to correctly predict a patient’s life expectancy. It indeed can be a difficult task. The data simply supports a tendency for physicians to be overly optimistic about the duration of time that remains.

A significant number of people do not receive hospice care. The most recent data shows that only 45.9 percent of Medicare beneficiaries died while enrolled as a hospice patient. Perhaps a better understanding of diagnosis-related indicators (see below) can increase the number of patients who receive the support hospice provides.

Still uncertain about a particular patient’s need for hospice? Call to schedule a consult or assessment with an Arbor Hospice specialist.

Disease Indicators for Hospice Referrals