Monday, June 14, 2010

A Message from Don Schumacher, June 2010

Becoming a Larger Part of the Care Continuum

My opening plenary at the Management and Leadership Conference in April touched on many issues that, as an industry, we must be keenly aware of—and address together. In the limited space I have here, I’d like to talk about one of the issues of increasing import right now. That is, finding additional ways to serve more people in our communities.

I actually raised this issue when I became NHPCO’s president/CEO in 2002. As an industry, we were far too dependent on reimbursement from the very fragile Medicare system—and we still are today. While hospice payment reform will be the ultimate catalyst for change, my hope is that all providers will begin taking steps now to assess the needs in their community and explore ways to utilize their skills to meet their broader community’s needs. This is what I mean when I speak of becoming a larger part of the ‘care continuum.’ Much of my plenary address was devoted to this issue and I truly believe it is the very crux of our future success or demise as an industry.

The diversification or expansion of our services is, of course, not a quick or easy task to undertake. It requires planning and a thoughtful business strategy. But it is doable—there are programs which are now demonstrating just how doable it is.

Some hospices are now offering adult day care and home-diversion programs, others have become PACE providers, and still others are expanding into palliative care. In some cases, these providers are partnering with other organizations and in other cases they are going it alone. So I ask that you study the work now being done; explore various reimbursement models, including community-based waiver programs; and identify and begin dialog with potential partners in your community. Our cover story this month shares the process that Pathways Hospice followed to develop its community grief center in Fort Collins, Colorado—an excellent example of how one program assessed a community need and, building on a core strength, expanded its services. Our thanks to Nancy Jakobson, director of the center, for sharing her program’s experience with us.

In the coming months, NHPCO will be providing tools and resources to help you in this process. Our specialty conference in August, “Developing the Care Continuum: Innovative Models to Meet the Unique Care Needs of Patients/Families” will also serve as a dynamic forum to help jumpstart discussions among providers.

I encourage every provide-member to find additional ways to become a larger part of the care continuum. If we don’t step up, others will—leaving our industry a very marginalized component of the nation’s new healthcare system.


Note: Don’s monthly message appears in NewsLine; members can access this month’s and previous issues at

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