Congressional Briefing - September 13, 2010

The Quality of Care for Patients Dying in the Hospital: Areas for Improvement Suggest Fundamental Problem in U.S. Health Care

end of life care


Neil Wenger
RAND Corporation
University of California, Los Angeles


Monday, September 13, 2010


1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.


428a Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C.

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About the Program

End-of-life care is an emotionally charged issue with a lot at stake in terms of lives and dollars. Medical care provided during the last year of life accounts for 10 to 12 percent of all U.S. health care spending, yet end-of-life care often does not reflect patient or family wishes. Seriously ill patients in hospitals may receive intensive, but unsuccessful, treatments and die with distressing symptoms after receiving burdensome care.

Despite the attention end-of-life care receives, little is known about what happens to people dying in the hospital or the nature and quality of care they receive. Neil Wenger examined the care provided to patients who died over a one-year period at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and identified several critical areas in which the hospital could improve end-of-life care.

The study

  • describes who the patients are and how they die in the hospital
  • evaluates the quality of end-of-life care
  • was designed to help improve its quality of end-of-life care and offers lessons for physicians and other caregivers who treat critically ill patients nationwide
  • can help policymakers as they struggle to address payment systems and other issues pertaining to end-of-life care.

About the Speaker

Neil S. Wenger is a professor of medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research at UCLA. He directs RAND Health’s Assessing Care of Vulnerable Elders (ACOVE) project, which develops quality-of-care measures and develops and implements quality improvement programs aimed at enhancing primary care for older patients. He is an active general internist and carries out research on the care of and decisionmaking for the older patient, quality of health care, and the empirical study of clinical ethics.

About RAND

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND focuses on the issues that matter most such as health, education, national security, international affairs, law and business, the environment, and more. As a nonpartisan organization, RAND operates independent of political and commercial pressures. We serve the public interest by helping lawmakers reach informed decisions on the nation's pressing challenges.

Further Inquiries

For further information about this event, contact the Office of Congressional Relations at or call (703) 413-1100, ext. 5395.