Study shows worse care experiences in for-profit hospices than nonprofits

Amirtha Jayakumaran, General News Reporter

A new study published last month found patient care experiences are substantially worse at for-profit hospices than at nonprofit ones.

The study was a collaboration between the RAND Corporation, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Layla Parast, assistant professor of statistics and data sciences at UT.

Co-author Parast said the study collected data from the Hospice Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey, a national survey that asks about both the patient’s experience and the family’s experience.

Parast also said the survey measured aspects of care such as communication between the hospice team and patient’s family, management of symptoms and religious or spiritual support.

Lead author Rebecca Anhang Price said the team summarized the results of the survey and compared care experiences in different types of hospices. She said, on average, for-profit hospices were found to have worse care experiences.

The difference in experiences may be a result of fewer and less skilled staff employed at for-profit hospitals and the flexibility of services nonprofit hospices can afford, Anhang Price said.

“Fewer staff may also mean that hospice staff are overworked or that there might be higher rates of staff turnover,” Anhang Price said. “There’s been a lot of growth in the hospice industry over the last 20 some years, and that growth has been almost entirely because of the introduction of new for-profit hospices.”

Anhang Price said a nonprofit hospice is able to offer more flexibility in the services it provides that are not formally covered by hospice payments.

The data from the research found that improving efficiency of care through types of care, types of staff and the number of visits by staff resulted in poor care experiences, Anhang Price said.

“The idea behind hospice care is to transform end-of-life care so that it holistically meets the needs, preferences and goals of dying people and their families,” Anhang Price said. “What is important is trying to ensure that the quality of hospice care that people have access to remains very high.”