Oncology hospitalist impact on hospice utilization

Cancer. 2023 Dec 1;129(23):3797-3804. doi: 10.1002/cncr.35008. Epub 2023 Sep 14.


Background: Unplanned hospitalizations among patients with advanced cancer are often sentinel events prompting goals of care discussions and hospice transitions. Late referrals to hospice, especially those at the end of life, are associated with decreased quality of life and higher total health care costs. Inpatient management of patients with solid tumor malignancies is increasingly shifting from oncologists to oncology hospitalists. However, little is known about the impact of oncology hospitalists on the timing of transition to hospice.

Objective: To compare hospice discharge rate and time to hospice discharge on an inpatient oncology service led by internal medicine-trained hospitalists and a service led by oncologists.

Methods: At Smilow Cancer Hospital, internal medicine-trained hospitalists were integrated into one of two inpatient medical oncology services allowing comparison between the new, hospitalist-led service (HS) and the traditional, oncologist-led service (TS). Discharges from July 26, 2021, through January 31, 2022, were identified from the electronic medical record. The odds ratio for discharge disposition by team was calculated by logistic regression using a multinomial distribution. Adjusted length of stay before discharge was assessed using multivariable linear regression.

Results: The HS discharged 47/400 (11.8%) patients to inpatient hospice, whereas the TS service discharged 18/313 (5.8%), yielding an adjusted odds ratio of 1.94 (95% CI, 1.07-3.51; p = .03). Adjusted average length of stay before inpatient hospice disposition was 6.83 days (95% CI, 4.22-11.06) for the HS and 16.29 days (95% CI, 7.73-34.29) for the TS (p = .003).

Conclusions: Oncology hospitalists improve hospice utilization and time to inpatient hospice referral on an inpatient medical oncology service.

Plain language summary: Patients with advanced cancer are often admitted to the hospital near the end of life. These patients generally have a poor chance of long-term survival and may prefer comfort-focused care with hospice. In this study, oncology hospitalists discharged a higher proportion of patients to inpatient hospice with less time spent in the hospital before discharge.

Keywords: cancer; hospices; hospitalists; inpatients; medical oncology.

MeSH terms

  • Death
  • Hospices*
  • Hospitalists*
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Medical Oncology
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Quality of Life
  • Retrospective Studies