Factors Driving Live Discharge From Hospice: Provider Perspectives
The proportion of patients disenrolling from hospice before death has increased over the decade with significant variations across hospice types and regions. Such trends have raised concerns about live disenrollment's effect on care quality. Live disenrollment may be driven by factors other than patient preference and may create discontinuities in care, disrupting ongoing patient-provider relationships. Researchers have not explored when and how providers make this decision with patients.
The objective of this study was to ascertain provider perspectives on key drivers of live discharge from the Medicare hospice program.
We conducted semistructured telephone interviews with 18 individuals representing 14 hospice providers across the country. Transcriptions were coded and analyzed using a template analysis approach.
Analysis generated four themes: 1) difficulty estimating patient prognosis, 2) fear of Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services audits, 3) rising market competition, and 4) challenges with inpatient contracting. Participants emphasized challenges underlying each decision to discharge patients alive, stressing that there often exists a gray line between appropriate and inappropriate discharges. Discussions also focused on scenarios in which financial motivations drive enrollment and disenrollment practices.
This study provides significant contributions to existing knowledge about hospice enrollment and disenrollment patterns. Results suggest that live discharge patterns are often susceptible to market and regulatory forces, which may have contributed to the rising national rate.