Increasing Veterans Hospice Use The Veterans Health Administrations Focus On Improving End-Of-Life Care
Author: Susan C. Miller, Orna Intrator, Winifred Scott, Scott T. Shreve, Ciaran S. Phibbs, Bruce Kinosian, Richard M. Allman, Thomas E. Edes
In 2009 the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) began a major, four-year investment in improving the quality of end-of-life care. The Comprehensive End of Life Care Initiative increased the numbers of VA medical center inpatient hospice units and palliative care staff members as well as the amount of palliative care training, quality monitoring, and community outreach. We divided male veterans ages sixty-six and older into categories based on their use of the VA and Medicare and examined whether the increases in their rates of hospice use in the last year of life differed from the concurrent increase among similar nonveterans enrolled in Medicare. After adjusting for age, race and ethnicity, diagnoses, nursing home use in the last year of life, census region, and urbanicity of a person’s last residence, we found a 6.9–7.9-percentage-point increase in hospice use over time for the veteran categories, compared to a 5.6-percentage-point increase for nonveterans (the relative increases were 20–42 percent and 16 percent, respectively). The VA’s substantial investment in palliative care appears to have resulted in greater hospice use by older male veterans enrolled in the VA, a critical step forward in caring for veterans with serious illnesses.