Epidemiology and patterns of care at the end of life: Rising complexity, shifts in care patterns and sites of death

Melissa D. Aldridge, Elizabeth H. Bradley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations

Abstract

In 2015 an estimated 2.7 million people in the United States (1 percent of the population) died. Although decedents' illness experience varies substantially, important trends in care at the end of life are evident. To identify the most pressing health care policy issues related to end-of-life care, we present a comprehensive picture of the epidemiology and care patterns of people in the last stage of life. We identify three key trends in end-of-life care: increasing diversity in the primary diagnoses of decedents, increases in multimorbidity and illness complexity among people with terminal illnesses, and shifts in patterns of care at the end of life and in sites of death. This changing epidemiology of those in the last phase of life puts new pressures on the Medicare hospice benefit to ensure the availability of high-quality end-of-life care. In addition, health care policy makers must grapple with the fact that even with increasing use of hospice care, care intensity increases at the end of life. We highlight and discuss tensions that must be managed to ensure that high-quality care is accessible for people at the end of life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1175-1183
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Affairs
Volume36
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2017

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