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Why Do Home Hospice Patients Return to the Hospital? A Study of Hospice Provider Perspectives

Background: Hospice provides an opportunity for patients to receive care at home at the end of life (EOL); however, approximately 25% of patients who disenroll from hospice are hospitalized. Hospitalization can lead to poor care transitions and result in unwarranted care and adverse patient outcomes. Research examining reasons for hospitalization in this patient population is limited.

Objective: The objective was to understand the reasons for hospitalization among home hospice patients through the perspectives of hospice interdisciplinary team (IDT) members.

Methods: This was a qualitative study using a grounded theory approach. Seven semistructured focus group were conducted to solicit reasons for hospitalization among home hospice patients. Participants consisted of 73 home hospice IDT members from a not-for-profit hospice agency in New York City. Focus group recordings were transcribed and analyzed using content analysis.

Results: Eight major themes were identified: (1) not fully understanding hospice, (2) lack of clarity about disease prognosis, (3) desire to continue receiving care from nonhospice physicians and hospital, (4) caregiver burden, (5) distressing/difficult-to-manage signs and symptoms, (6) caregivers' reluctance to administer morphine, (7) 911's faster response time compared to hospice, and (8) families' difficulty accepting patients' mortality.

Conclusions: Reasons for hospitalization in home hospice patients are multifactorial and complex. Our study highlights barriers and challenges that patients, families, physicians, and hospices face around home hospice care and hospitalization. More research is needed to elucidate these issues and develop viable strategies to address them.

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Weill Cornell Medicine Center for Research on End-of-Life Care 525 E 68th St, Box 39,
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New York, NY 10065 Phone: (212) 746-4409