Comparison between Rural and Urban Appalachian Children in Hospice Care


Comparison between Rural and Urban Appalachian Children in Hospice Care


Fornehed MLC; Svynarenko R; Keim-Malpass J; Cozad MJ; Qualls KA; Stone WL; Lindley LC


Southern Medical Journal




Appalachian Region; Child; Hospices; Medicaid; Retrospective Studies; Rural; Urban


Objective The goal of this study was to compare rural and urban pediatric hospice patients in Appalachia. Methods Using a retrospective, nonexperimental design, we sought to compare characteristics of Appalachian rural and urban children younger than 21 years enrolled in the Medicaid hospice benefit. Descriptive statistics were calculated on the demographic, hospice, and clinical characteristics of children from Appalachia. Comparisons were calculated using Pearson chi2 for proportions and the Student t test for means. Results Less than half of the 1788 Appalachian children admitted to hospice care resided in rural areas (40%). Compared with children in urban areas of Appalachia, rural children were significantly younger (8 years vs 9.5 years) and more often had a complex chronic condition (56.0% vs 35.1%) and comorbidities (38.5% vs 17.0%) with technology dependence (32.6% vs 17.0%). Children in rural Appalachian were commonly from communities in the southern region of Appalachia (27.9% vs <10.0%), with median household incomes <$50,000/year (96.7% vs 22.4%). Significant differences were present in clinical care between rural and urban Appalachian children. Rural children had longer lengths of stay in hospice care (38 days vs 11 days) and were less likely to use the emergency department during hospice admission (19.0% vs 43.0%). These children more often visited their primary care provider (49.9% vs 31.3%) and sought care for symptoms from nonhospice providers (18.1% vs 10.0%) while admitted to hospice. Conclusions Our results suggest that children admitted to hospice care in rural versus urban Appalachia have distinct characteristics. Rural children are admitted to hospice care with significant medical complexities and reside in areas of poverty. Hospice care for rural children suggests a continuity of care with longer hospice stays and fewer transitions to the emergency department; however, the potential for care fragmentation is present, with frequent visits to primary care and nonhospice providers for symptom management. Understanding the unique characteristics of children in Appalachia may be essential for advancing knowledge and care for these children at the end of life. Future research examining geographic variation in hospice care in Appalachia is warranted. Copyright © Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.


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Fornehed MLC; Svynarenko R; Keim-Malpass J; Cozad MJ; Qualls KA; Stone WL; Lindley LC, “Comparison between Rural and Urban Appalachian Children in Hospice Care,” Pediatric Palliative Care Library, accessed June 25, 2024,