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Hospice Use of CAM Services

July 14, 2014

Results from a national cross-sectional survey presented at the American Geriatric Society 2014 Annual Scientific Meeting showed regional differences of CAM services offered in hospice care.

With the fast expansion of hospice care, the national cross-sectional survey results presented at the American Geriatric Society 2014 Annual Scientific Meeting demonstrated that currently only 29% of hospices from the total of 591 who responded have at least 1 full-time equivalent music, art, or massage therapist. Of the hospices with CAM employees, 74% reported having a massage therapist, 53% reported having a music therapist, and 22% reported having an art therapist. Researchers also found regional variation in the prevalence of CAM services. Mountain and Pacific regions were found to have the highest percentage (44%) with South Central regions having the lowest (17%). While these differences may be cultural, the presenters explain, they may also reflect the proportion of for-profit to nonprofit hospices. Surprisingly, for-profit hospices were the least likely to offer CAM services. The study investigators believe that these hospices may be more financially strapped by competition and concern with losing market shares, and thus may not be able to offer these services. On the flip side, it was clear that larger and nonprofit hospices which do provide CAM therapies were more able to fulfill the stated mission of hospice to care for the whole person. With more than 5,300 hospices in the United States servicing more than 1.65 million people at an annual cost of $10 billion to Medicare, researchers state that it is necessary to determine whether hospice care should move toward interdisciplinary care or toward medical care. Dr. Louise Aronson, MD, MFA, and associate professor at UCSF, points out that only a few small studies have shown that CAM has benefits in the hospice setting. Regarding this issue, she states that “Given the health financial crisis, it would be helpful to know if these [therapies] are beneficial. If so, we need to invest in them; if not, other things need our money.”

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