Hospice Use Among Cancer Decedents in Alabama, 2002-2005
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Hospice Use Among Cancer Decedents in Alabama, 2002-2005

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      Prev Chronic Dis
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      Introduction Most studies that describe hospice use among cancer patients use the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER)-Medicare database, which has known limitations. We used vital records data to describe patterns of hospice use among cancer decedents in Alabama. Methods To ascertain hospice use, we linked death certificates from 2002 through 2005 for people who died from cancer to listings of deaths reported by hospices. To evaluate accessibility of care, we calculated straight-line distances between decedent residence at death and the hospice providing care. We used these distances to estimate the reach of each hospice and identify the number of hospice nonusers residing in these areas. Results During the study period, 52.0% of cancer decedents in Alabama received hospice care from 165 hospices. Nearly two-thirds of Alabama counties contain at least 1 hospice. Whites (53.6%) used hospice at a significantly higher rate than blacks (47.0%), but the rate of use was similar for women (53.2%) and men (51.0%). For people who were eligible for Medicare, 53.0% received hospice care. The median distance between decedent’s residence and the hospice providing care was 9.8 miles. This distance was slightly shorter for blacks than whites and roughly equal by sex. Conclusion Alabamians use hospice at lower rates than observed elsewhere. Barriers to hospice care in Alabama must be identified and addressed.
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