New Report Profiles Hospice Care in the United States Shows Drop in Length of Care

For Immediate Release: August 21, 2003

Contact: NCHS/CDC Public Affairs, (301) 458-4800


Characteristics of Hospice Care Discharges and Their Length of Service: United States, 2000. Series Report 13, No. 154. 44 pp. (PHS) 2003-1725. pdf icon[PDF – 7.2 MB]

Almost two-thirds of patients received hospice care for less than 30 days in 2000 and the median length of service in 2000 was 16 days, down from 27 days in 1994, finds a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Over a third of patients discharged in 2000 had a week or less of hospice care.

The National Home and Hospice Care Survey conducted by CDC‘s National Center for Health Statistics studies this important component of health care in America. Hospice care is a program of palliative and supportive care that provides physical, psychological, social and spiritual care for dying patients. Hospice care is provided to individuals with terminal illness to assist them and their families. Some 86 percent of hospice patients died in hospice care in 2000; the rest were discharged for other reasons such as transferred to other health facilities, recovered or stabilized, or left when private insurance coverage ended.

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • There were 621,000 discharges from hospice care in 2000. Most patients were elderly, white, and lived in a private or semiprivate residence while receiving hospice services. Most lived with a relative who was the primary caregiver.
  • Cancer remains the most common primary diagnosis for those discharged from hospice, but the proportion decreased from 75 percent in 1992 to 58 percent in 2000. Other primary diagnoses for recipients of hospice care are heart disease, dementia, cerebrovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
  • Hospice patients usually receive a high level of care. Three-fourths of patients were seen by three or more providers during the 30 days before discharge and 85 percent received three or more services.
  • Seven out of 10 patients receive help with one or more activity of daily living (such as bathing, dressing or eating). About 70 percent were incontinent, four out of five had mobility limitations, and half used oxygen.

The National Home and Hospice Care Survey collects data on current and discharged patients from a nationally representative sample of home health and hospice care agencies. The survey includes patients receiving care in their homes as well as those in nursing homes, hospitals, or other inpatient facilities. This survey is part of the National Health Care Survey that also collects data on services provided in doctors’ offices, hospitals, and nursing homes. The survey examines health care across a range of settings and monitors patterns and shifts in the way health care services are provided and used.

“Characteristics of Hospice Care Discharge and Their Length of Service: United States, 2000,” can be viewed at CDC/NCHS Web site


Page last reviewed: October 6, 2006