A study by Darmouth College shows Iowa does better than the rest of the country when it comes to providing end-of-life care to cancer patients, including one north Iowa hospital was at the top of the list. Iowa Hospital Association communications director, Scott McIntyre,says the Dartmouth Atlas Project studied Medicare patients with cancer.

McIntyre says they looked back to see if the care received by the patients was appropriate to what they were experiencing. He says not nearly enough patients were admitted to hospice care, and instead, too many were admitted to hospitals and intensive care, which was not appropriate. McIntyre says the numbers in the study show Iowa hospitals more often than not appeared to make the right decisions.

McIntyre says where about one third of the patients nationwide died in the hospital — in Iowa that was lower at about 25%. And nationwide 50% received hospice care, while in Iowa 70% received hospice care. Mason City had the lowest percentage of patients nationwide who died in the hospital at 7%.

“It’s good to see that a community like Mason City appears from this study to really be on top of the care for their patients,” McIntyre says. McIntyre says the percentages in Iowa did very quite a bit from Mason City’s low of seven percent dying in the hospital to a high of 27%. He says they are still trying to figure out all the reasons for the differences.

He says Dartmouth spends a lot of time studying the variation of care, even within a state and he says it has to do with the culture of the area and even the culture of the physicians. McIntyre says so far there is not a good pattern for researchers to latch onto to explain the variations in care.

One thing McIntyre says the study does point out is the need for all sides to address end-of-life issues. “People and physicians need to communicate, they need to know their wishes, they need to talk honestly about where they are with their health,” McIntyre says. He says this study will hopefully let people see the need for discussions about the care and how to deal with these issues.

Iowa’s hospice enrollment rate of 70% was one of the highest in the study, which showed 42% hospice enrollment for New York, 47% for California.

You can see the entire study in the link in this story at: www.dartmouthatlas.org