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The Case for Integrated, Proactive Hospice and Palliative Care Programs

Daria Byrne

Vice President, Clinical & MedSurg Solutions Consulting, Intalere

Despite the growing awareness and implementation of palliative care teams across the United States, there remains a misconception of the broader benefits of palliative care. The misconception leads to missed opportunities to provide additional supportive services benefitting the patient and their family. We asked Daria Byrne, VP, Clinical & MedSurg Solutions Consulting for Intalere to share her insight on this subject.

What are some of the historical misconceptions around the benefits of palliative care?

While healthcare professionals acknowledge the central premise of medicine as curative, we also acknowledge there are times when medicine must also be supportive. Palliative care is medical care, and it is important to understand that accepting palliative care or hospice services simply reflects a change in the patients’ goals of care. The importance of palliative and hospice care should not be minimized. When patients meet criteria to receive these services, these specialties are critically important.

Why is a fully integrated, clinically-based hospice and palliative care plan so important?

Research proves that identifying and providing palliative care services to patients who meet criteria bends the cost curve leading to a decrease in mean length of stay and reduction in readmissions. An implemented and embedded palliative care and hospice program across the healthcare organization encourages clinicians to consider care resources to reduce cost, improve outcomes, and increase patient and family satisfaction. In terms of costs, several studies prove an average savings of $3,200 per encounter.

What are some of the focal points in developing hospice or palliative care programs?

Focal points include identifying specific resources focused on products, services and supplies specifically tailored to hospice and palliative care providers. Also:

  • Identifying clinical champions and individuals to build a collaborative palliative care team.
  • Leveraging best practices to select key clinical indicators to assess palliative care readiness.
  • Developing clinical workflows to embed and automate the referral process and ensure communication needs.
  • Identifying key measures to track metrics and return on investment, specifically operational, financial and clinical outcomes.
  • Promoting a culture which focuses on palliative and hospice care not as a discontinuation of treatment, but rather focused on the alleviation of suffering.

What is a final point to make about the true “value” of palliative care?

The value of palliative care is not just observed by healthcare organizations as a decrease in mean length of stay, a reduction in readmissions, or improved resource utilization, but also witnessed in the quality of life of the patient allowing the patient to stay at home (or other non-acute care environment), where they desire to be, and with symptoms better managed, living a life of greater comfort and quality. Transparent communication practices between clinicians and patients, implemented processes and protocols resulting in reduced variation in care, and effective technology enhance the likelihood that these crucial conversations will take place.

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