Study: Rate of Patients Dying in Hospital Drops Nearly 25%

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Fewer people died in acute-care hospitals in 2009 than in 2005 and 2000, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers studied the change in site of death, place of care and healthcare transitions from 2000 to 2005 to 2009. They examined data for 20 percent of Medicare beneficiaries who died in those years, yielding a sample of more than 800,000 patients overall.


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The proportion of deaths in acute-care hospitals decreased from 32.6 percent in 2000 to 26.9 percent in 2005 to 24.6 percent in 2009 — a total rate decrease of approximately 24.5 percent. However, in those same years the use of intensive care units in the last month of life grew from 24.3 percent to 26.3 percent to 29.2 percent.

Here are other key findings from the study:
•    Hospice use at the time of death increased from 21.6 percent in 2000 to 32.3 percent in 2005 to 42.4 percent in 2009.
•    In 2009, 28.4 percent of the patients who used hospice at the time of death used hospice for three days or less, and 40.3 percent of these patients came from the hospital and stayed in the ICU.
•    The average number of healthcare transitions in the last 90 days of life increased from 2.1 to 2.8 to 3.1 per decedent from 2000 to 2005 to 2009, respectively.
•    The percent of patients who had a transition in the last three days of life increased from 10.3 percent to 12.4 percent to 14.2 percent over the same time period.

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