Thursday, July 29, 2010

Promising Steps

I am heading to our conference on “Developing the Care Continuum” next week and I’m looking forward to what I know will be some thoughtful, forward-thinking discussions. Devoting an entire event to exploring the various ways we can become more visible, more available, and more valuable to the people in our communities is, in itself, a forward-thinking strategy—and also very timely.

Greater attention will be placed on improving care coordination and eliminating duplicative services as the health reform law is implemented over the next several years. All hospices, not just a select few, need to begin thinking, planning, and taking steps toward greater collaboration or the diversification of their services if they want to grow their census. Palliative care is certainly one option that is already on the rise in hospitals. However, other services are also helping hospices to establish relationships with patients and other providers earlier in the life cycle. In the coming weeks, NHPCO will make available both webcasts and session tapes from the conference to help members who were unable to attend.

Be mindful, too, of the positive steps that are also being taken here in Washington (yes, Washington!):

  • From our conversations with Senator Ron Wyden, we know the Concurrent Care Demonstration Project is now taking shape. This three-year project, which will be conducted by CMS, will monitor patients at 15 different hospice programs who will be permitted to receive other Medicare-covered services as well as hospice care. The goal is to evaluate the impact of concurrent care on the patient and family’s quality of life as well as the cost of care. It has the potential to strengthen the bridge between hospice and palliative care—and may be another good reason to consider a partnership or expansion into palliative care.
  • Undaunted by the ‘death panel’ debacle of last summer, Representative Earl Blumenauer has also re-introduced legislation calling for Medicare and Medicaid to cover voluntary consultations about end-of-life care planning between patients and their physicians. NHPCO worked with the Congressman to help advance this valuable legislation, including a formal letter of support.

I know that running a hospice program today is not easy, given the regulatory and economic challenges of our times. As one colleague admitted, “it’s easy to get stuck in the weeds.” But it is far too critical a time to let that happen. This new decade holds much promise—if we are all poised and ready to be part of it.


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