Vermont Hospice Study Findings Unveiled to Community

On Tuesday, November 10 at 2:30 p.m. findings from an intensive 6-month Vermont Hospice Study will be presented at Capital Plaza in Montpelier. A full report on study findings will also be released on this date.

In Vermont, hospice use is particularly low. National Medicare hospice utilization trend data through 2012 indicated that Vermonters were less likely to use hospice services than residents of other states, and they used fewer days of care.

In October 2014, Central Vermont Home Health & Hospice joined with other VNAs of Vermont member agencies to support a study led by the Visiting Nurse Association of Chittenden and Grand Isle Counties’ Madison-Deane Initiative (MDI), the education arm of VNA End-of-Life Care services, to examine hospice utilization in Vermont. Additional support was also received from the Coverys Community Healthcare Foundation.

“This study findings will help deepen our understanding of why individuals are hesitant to choose hospice,” says CVHHH President and CEO Sandy Rousse, CPA, who will attend the event Tuesday. “The next step is to use the study findings to work more closely with key stakeholders in the community to improve advanced care planning and to have more discussions around the value of hospice.”

The study found a combination of factors is contributing to lower use, including a need for increased education for health care providers and patients and families, as well as more support for the advance care planning process.

In addition, healthcare providers identified barriers in referring patients with certain illnesses to hospice, particularly patients with cancer and dementia. In fact, 2012 Medicare claims data revealed Vermont patients with cancer diagnoses used hospice at half the national average; these patients were more likely to die in hospitals than their counterparts in more than 40 other states. Cancer is the leading cause of death among Vermonters and Vermont death rates for both cancer and dementia are higher than the national average.

A brief report of the findings is available to read and download here.

The study focused on five areas that may contribute to low utilization and short stays:

  • Reluctance of providers to refer to hospice
  • Low use by residents of nursing homes
  • Low use by people with specific diagnoses
  • Limited knowledge or capacity of families
  • Availability of resources used by hospice providers

This study was guided and overseen by a Study Advisory Committee that included physicians, hospice agency staff, policy makers, consumers, and faith communities. Committee members from diverse backgrounds and regions of Vermont were recruited to include perspectives on local cultural norms and healthcare.

A presentation of the findings and release of the full report will be held on Tuesday, November 10 at 2:30 pm at Capital Plaza in Montpelier. The public is invited to attend this event and discuss reasons behind Vermont’s low hospice use. The research team from the University of Southern Maine, Muskie School of Public Service, will lead the presentation and discussion.

This event is free and open to the public but RSVPs are encouraged as space is limited. To RSVP, please visit www.vnacares.org/study.