Drop in hospital death rates may mean more Americans dying at home

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NEW YORKMost Americans would rather die at home than in a hospital, according to patient surveys.

Now, a new government study suggests more and more people getting their wish.

Researchers at the National Center for Health Statistics studied the deaths of patients admitted to a sampling of U.S. hospitals. They determined that hospital deaths accounted for 29 percent of U.S. deaths in 2010, down from more than 32 percent in 2000.

The number of inpatient hospital deaths dropped 8 percent over the decade study period from 776,000 deaths in 2000 to 715,000 in 2010, according to the report. During that time, the number of total hospitalizations increased 11 percent. Patients who died in the hospital had longer average hospital stays than all patients.

About one quarter of hospital deaths in 2010 occurred in adults aged 85 and older, which was consistent throughout the decade.

Meanwhile, other reports indicate deaths in the home grew from 23 percent to 27 percent over the decade. Deaths in nursing homes held steady at around 21 percent.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the figures March 27 on its website. CDC officials said the growing availability of hospice care may be one factor for fewer hospital deaths.

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