Hospice medical directors: A survey of one state

Debra Parker Oliver, Julie M. Kapp, Paul Tatum, Audrey Wallace

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Introduction: Little research exists regarding hospice medical directors (HMD). This project describes the HMD's background and training, clinical roles, and current function within the hospice organization and their interdisciplinary groups. Methods: A survey was mailed to each licensed hospice that was also a member of the state hospice association in one state. Thirty-one HMDs from 31 hospice programs (40% response rate) in one state responded. Results: Findings show that the role of the HMD in this state is primarily part-time and filled by primary care physicians. Most HMDs report being satisfied with their positions. No more than one third belong to any one professional association and no physician in this survey was certified in palliative care by the American Board of Medical Specialties. The role for most of these HMDs centers around their clinical contribution to the team. Discussion: Despite the 2008 revisions in the regulations, the HMD roles still vary across hospices, and requirements regarding the specialty, training, and education for physicians are not specified. Professional associations for HMDs should target these part-time physicians in an effort to build a comprehensive organization represented by all types of HMDs. Conclusion: The part-time nature of HMDs has important implications for professional organizations and policy makers. Palliative care certification and continuing education opportunities need to be made available to these physicians. Additionally, new changes requiring face-to-face visits for recertification should consider the part-time nature of HMD work and the difficulties that the requirement will have in both cost for the hospice and access to primary care in rural areas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-40
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Medical Directors Association
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012


  • Hospice
  • Interdisciplinary team
  • Medical director
  • Palliative care


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