Hospitalization Vs. Hospice Care

Hospitalization and hospice care provide different services. Hospitalization is used to treat all kinds of ailments with the goal of restoring health, but hospice care is focused only on providing support to those who are dying. Understanding the differences between hospitalization and hospice care is important as people reach the end of the lives, so they can make informed choices about how and where they spend their final days.


The Journal of the American Medical Association defines hospice care as end-of-life support provided health care professionals, friends, family and volunteers. Their goal is to make the medical and emotional process of dying as peaceful and comfortable as possible, supplying both the patient and the family with spiritual and psychological support. Care often focuses on easing pain and emotional distress. Hospice care can be provided in a nursing home, a hospital, in specialized hospice settings or at the patient’s home.


While hospice care is focused on easing the process of dying, hospitalization’s primary focus is on sustaining life. End-of-life care can be administered in a hospital setting, but the National Institute on Aging states that most people choose hospital care because they want access to the physicians and life-support systems that can help them extend life, rather than begin the process of dying 1.

Qualification for Care

Hospitalization is an option for anyone who has the means to pay for it. Hospice care is usually only available for those who are considered terminally ill and who have a life expectancy of six months or less, says the National Cancer Institute 12. A doctor’s referral is generally required before someone is admitted to a hospice program.


According to the American Cancer Society, one of the key differences between hospitalization and hospice care is that family and friends often provide the majority of care for those under home-based hospice care 2. In a hospital setting, doctors, nurses and other health care specialists provide the majority of care. While hospital professionals focus primarily on the health of the body, hospice professionals address spiritual and psychological needs, as well.


The cost of both hospitalization and hospice care are usually paid through private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid or other forms of payment. Hospice care tends to be less expensive than hospitalization because friends and family can act as caregivers, reducing the cost of health care professionals, and high-cost life-saving technology is rarely used.

Hospice care might provide more financial flexibility for patients, because facilities are often supported through contributions from the community, volunteer workers and endowments from the families of former patients. Some hospice organizations offer free services to patients with no ability to pay, while others charge based on the patient’s ability to pay.