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Study: Earlier hospice saves $14,000-$27,000 in health care costs per patient

Written on Jul 30, 2020

New research shows that patients who receive hospice earlier saved an average of $14,000 in health care costs during the last three months of life compared to patients who were admitted for a mid-term stay.

The study, conducted by Trella Health, revealed that patients who did not elect hospice accrued $27,455 more in health care costs than patients who received an early hospice referral. These patients were also 10 times more likely to be admitted to the hospital.

Trella researchers examined data from more than 900,000 patients who died between July 2018 and June 2019, accounting for costs across care settings, hospitalization and emergency department utilization, among other metrics. Patients were divided into four cohorts depending on if and when they entered hospice. 

Each patient considered during the study had at least one hospitalization within one year prior to their death, allowing Trella’s analysts to create comparable groups and to minimize the impact of patients who died without being eligible for hospice. 

Hospice utilization in the United States topped 50% among Medicare decedents during 2018, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Cancer is the most frequent diagnosis among hospice patients, though many patients have multiple comorbidities. In 2017, more than 30% of hospice patients were diagnosed with cancer.

Among the Trella report’s other findings was that of 120,000 respiratory patients, those admitted to hospice early consumed approximately $33,000 less in health care costs during the last three months of life than those who received no hospice. Also, patients who came to hospice late in the course of their illnesses were five times more likely to visit the emergency department during the last month of life than early hospice patients.