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.


Monday, July 26, 2010

FY2011 Wage Index and Tools for NHPCO Members Now Available

CMS has posted the FY2011 hospice rates and aggregate cap. NHPCO offers members two important tools.

1) FY2011 Excel spreadsheet with the FY2011 wage index and the FY2011 rates for each county in each state.
2) FY2011 rate calculator that projects the wage index values and rates through FY2019. The calculator also allows you to project a percentage growth in your hospice's census for each year.

Links to these tools are available on the Wage Index page of NHPCO's website. Here's a link to the Regulatory Alert that went out to members on July 26, 2010.

Additionally, the PDF of CR7077 is available on the CMS website.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Don Schumacher Interviewed on Marketplace

President/CEO Don Schumacher was interviewed on public radio’s Marketplace about current issues in end-of-life care. Produced by American Public Media, Marketplace is broadcast internationally and is available online. Part one, of “End of life care: More or less of it?” was broadcast 07/20/10.

Part two of the story, “Better Training for Better End-of-Life Care,” looks at palliative care and visits San Diego Hospice and Institute for Palliative Medicine. Marketplace links to materials from NHPCO’s Caring Connections as helpful resources.

The story also features a photo slide show.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Time to Take Pause

I have the good fortune of living in our nation’s capital, a wonderful spot to be during the July 4 festivities. While the fireworks are always spectacular and the spirit of patriotism palpable, what I also enjoy is the time we take to pay tribute to the many individuals in our own communities who, through their service and dedication, enrich our lives.

Julia Quinlan, the mother of Karen Ann Quinlan, is one of the first people that comes to my mind. June 11 marked the 25-year anniversary of her daughter’s death and, in May, she helped celebrate the 30-year anniversary of the hospice she and her late-husband, Joseph, founded in their daughter’s honor. I had the opportunity to talk with her last month about her family’s decade-long ordeal, how she came to learn about hospice, and the work she is still doing at the vibrant age of 83. Excerpts from our conversation appear in the July issue of NHPCO’s NewsLine, and I think, as you read it, you will find her accomplishments inspiring. Members can find July NewsLine at

Mrs. Quinlan is one of the exceptional people who make hospice care what it is today, but there are others. A few weeks ago, as I was reviewing our first digital edition of Insights, I was reminded of many others. This magazine, which is a publication of NHPCO’s National Council of Hospice and Palliative Professionals, is very much a forum for our membership. Under the guidance of NCHPP’s leadership, members from around the country contribute articles about the work they are doing to improve care at the bedside. This particular issue mirrors the theme of our August conference on Developing the Care Continuum, and includes 15 articles by well-known hospice leaders as well as lesser-known clinicians who are equally committed. I’d like to offer a link to the digital issue of Insights for those who are interested in sharing the work of NHPCO members.

Last but not least, I’d like to personally thank John Thoma, the CEO of Hospice of Wake County, for writing the July NewsLine cover story about NHPCO’s new Standards and how it has benefited his program. He and his fellow members on the Quality and Standards Committee were instrumental in making this critical document a practical tool for the entire membership.

While the long holiday is now behind us, I hope you have each set aside time to enjoy some sunshine with your friends and loved ones. While our dedication to service excellence is both necessary and laudable, it requires sufficient rest.