Palliative Radiotherapy in Medicare-Certified Freestanding Hospices

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Hospice care is designed to provide a variety of services, including pain and symptom management, to terminally ill patients. Although palliative radiotherapy (PRT) has been shown to be effective in reducing pain and other symptoms related to tumor growth, only a few hospice patients receive this therapy. This analysis identifies Medicare-certified freestanding hospices that report use of radiotherapy using Medicare's Healthcare Cost Report Information System (HCRIS) dataset. Any reported cost for radiotherapy services was used to indicate provision of PRT because of the population served. The relationship of provider characteristics (ownership, profit status, percent of patients with a cancer diagnosis, geographic location, and size) with provision of PRT was analyzed. Overall, 23.8% of Medicare-certified freestanding hospices in the study population provided radiotherapy services in fiscal year 2002. Provision of radiotherapy services was associated with larger size (measured by total number of hospice days reported in the HCRIS), longer length of Medicare certification, not-for-profit status, and a higher proportion of patients surviving more than seven days after admission. The finding that size, length of Medicare certification, and profit status are associated with provision of radiotherapy services lends credence to suggestions that current reimbursement practices discourage the use of PRT in hospice care, particularly for low-volume hospices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)780-787
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2009


  • Medicare
  • hospice
  • palliative radiation

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