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Report: More Chronically-Ill Patients Die at Home, Hospice Care

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (WTAQ) - A new report says more chronically-ill Americans are dying at home or in hospice care units – and Milwaukee area hospitals see that same trend.

From 2003 to 2007, Wheaton Franciscan St. Joseph’s Hospital more than doubled the number of patients using its more home-like hospice facilities, than being hooked up to tubes in hospital rooms.

The Dartmouth Atlas Project says all of Milwaukee’s hospitals have reduced their percentage of terminally-ill patients who die while hospitalized. And only one of them, Aurora West Allis, did not increase its use of hospice care in the 5 years that were surveyed.

The trend shows that more chronically-ill patients would rather die at home, even if it means giving up more days in a hospital with a lesser quality of life. It also cuts health care costs, and saves money for taxpayers. That’s because 1 of every 4 Medicare dollars is spent on patients in the final year of their lives.

But the Dartmouth Atlas Project also found an increase in hospital intensive care among chronically-ill patients – especially in bigger cities with more services and specialists.

That’s proving true in Wisconsin. In 2007, chronically-ill patients were hospitalized 12 to 14 days in Milwaukee area hospitals – but only 6 to 8 days at facilities in Neenah, Appleton, Green Bay, and La Crosse.

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