US Medicare Hospice and Palliative Medicine Physician Workforce and Service Delivery in 2008-2020

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2024 Jun;67(6):e851-e857. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2024.03.006. Epub 2024 Mar 11.


Context: Despite clinical benefits of early palliative care, little is known about Medicare physician workforce specialized in Hospice and Palliative Medicine (HPM) and their service delivery settings.

Objectives: To examine changes in Medicare HPM physician workforce and their service delivery settings in 2008-2020.

Methods: Using the Medicare Data on Provider Practice and Specialty from 2008 to 2020, we identified 2375 unique Medicare Fee-For-Service (FFS) physicians (15,565 physician-year observations) with self-reported specialty in "Palliative Care and Hospice". We examined changes in the annual number of HPM physicians, average number of Medicare services overall and by care setting, total number of Medicare FFS beneficiaries, and total Medicare allowed charges billed by the physician.

Results: The number of Medicare HPM physicians increased 2.32 times from 771 in 2008 to 1790 in 2020. The percent of HPM physicians practicing in metropolitan areas increased from 90% to 96% in 2008-2020. Faster growth was also observed in female physicians (52.4% to 60.1%). Between 2008 and 2020, we observed decreased average annual Medicare FFS beneficiaries (170 to 123), number of FFS services (467 to 335), and Medicare allowed charges billed by the physician ($47,230 to $37,323). The share of palliative care delivered in inpatient settings increased from 47% to 68% in 2008-2020; whereas the share of services delivered in outpatient settings decreased from 37% to 19%.

Conclusion: Despite growth in Medicare HPM physician workforce, access is disproportionately concentrated in metropolitan and inpatient settings. This may limit receipt of early outpatient specialized palliative care, especially in nonmetropolitan areas.

Keywords: Access to care; Early palliative care; Palliative care and hospice; Physician workforce.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Fee-for-Service Plans
  • Female
  • Health Workforce
  • Hospice Care* / economics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicare*
  • Palliative Care / economics
  • Palliative Medicine
  • Physicians*
  • United States