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Most patients who are discharged from hospice live several more months, according to a new study, and about two-thirds of them survived more than 6 months.


Researchers followed 164 terminally ill patients who were discharged from hospice because they appeared to be improving. The terminal conditions included cancer, heart disease, and dementia.


During the yearlong study period, 35% of the discharged patients died. Almost 70% of those patients were readmitted to hospice before their death. Sixty-five percent of the discharged patients were alive after 6 months.


From 6% to 8% of hospice patients are discharged each year. Researchers say their findings indicate that, in most cases, patients are discharged from hospice for appropriate reasons, such as improved clinical status.


Researchers also say their results show how difficult predicting the course of a terminal illness is. They recommend that patients discharged from hospice be reevaluated frequently, starting soon after discharge, to identify changes in clinical status and unmet needs that may justify readmission to hospice.




"Outcomes and Characteristics of Patients Discharged Alive from Hospice," Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, J. Kutner, et al., August 2004.