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IOWA CITY, Iowa More patients with heart disease are seeking hospice care than hospital stays during the later stages of their illness, according to several recent medical publications. Recent data from the Journal of the American Medical Association also shows that heart disease patients who opt for hospice end up living longer.
"Patients who have heart disease and choose hospice care live 20 percent longer than those who have heart disease and do not use hospice care," said Sara Krieger, Clinical Leader at Iowa City Hospice. "There is still a problem with a significant number of people dying in the hospital, and studies show that 90 percent of those people didn't want to die in the hospital, they wanted to die at home."
Government changes to Medicare are also causing a shift in treatment options. In October the government started reducing Medicare payments to some hospitals that repeatedly treated the same patients for heart failure, heart attack of pneumonia.
"There have been lots of studies that show that a person can die at home more comfortably and with a lot less expense to Medicare," said Krieger. "There is a fear that once somebody comes on hospice care that they will die sooner, and that's not necessarily the case."
Iowa City Hospice treats around 120 patients at a time. In recent years they too have reported a slight increase in patients suffering from heart disease.
"When people get hospitalized, they tend to stay in bed, they tend to not ambulate and get weaker and if you can keep a patient in a home environment, when it's appropriate when they wish to avoid hospitalization, they have more freedom," said Dr. Ann Marie Machlab, medical director at Iowa City Hospice.