The cover story in the Money section of USA Today for Thursday, October 19, 2006 focuses on the cost of end-of-life care, and poses the question, "Should treatment be provided, regardless of cost or quality of life?"
The story is based on data from the Dartmouth Atlas Project that evaluates variation in medical care across the country. The report shows that the cost of care during the last six months of life varies from $24,591 in the District of Columbia to $12,878 in Idaho. The biggest factor affecting cost is the availability of doctors and hospital beds. Another factor that comes into play is the willingness of doctors, hospital staff, and hospices to talk with patients about end-of-life, what kind of care they want, and where they want to die.
According to Joanne Lynn, a geriatrician who worked for the RAND corporation, "Substantial progress could be made in slowing rising costs if the U.S. health system could find better ways to reduce hospitalization for people at the end of life, such as providing more in-home services."
What can we do as leaders in home care & hospice to get this message out to the rest of the healthcare delivery system? Post your comments below.