Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hospice Care Wins Modern Healthcare’s Big Impact Tournament

Win Affirms All That Hospice Care has Contributed to Healthcare

(Alexandria, Va) –From a field that began with 64 contestants in four major categories – People, Companies, Innovations, and Events – Hospice Care won Modern Healthcare’s Big Impact Tournament. Hospice Care defeated the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in the final round by a nearly 3-to-1 margin as having had the biggest impact on the healthcare delivery system over the past 35 years.

“Much of what now is considered integral to quality healthcare has roots that can be traced back to hospice,” said J. Donald Schumacher, president and CEO of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. “It is heartening to see that the readers of Modern Healthcare recognize the innovative contributions of hospice during a time when reducing hospital re-admissions, medical home and other hallmarks of quality are being discussed as essential elements of quality, cost-effective care.”

Innovations that are hallmarks of hospice care include:

  • Patient-centered care – focusing on the wishes and priorities of those being cared for;
  • Home and community-based care – empowering patients to receive care at home, nursing homes, assisted living and other settings;
  • Family caregivers – supporting families and teaching them to care for their loved ones at home;
  • Interdisciplinary, holistic care – delivering care and services that focus on pain management, symptom control, psychosocial and spiritual support;

Hospice began as a volunteer-driven, grassroots movement in the US in the late 1970s. Today, hospice is an integral part of the healthcare landscape that cares for more than 1.5 million patients every year.

“Innovation never stops within the hospice field with many hospice organizations working to develop the continuum of care that builds on the many benefits of hospice and would bring more seamless care delivery to all individuals facing serious and life-limiting illness,” Schumacher added. “For three decades hospices have been the largest providers of palliative care, and today, more and more providers are building upon the innovations of hospices to develop hospital-based palliative care programs, transition programs, PACE services and more.”

In the tournament, hospice received more votes than such contenders as electronic health records, patient safety advocacy, and clinical and financial performance transparency. For the complete results, visit Modern Healthcare's website.

Information about hospice is available at NHPCO’s Caring Connections at

Friday, July 22, 2011

Don Schumacher Comments on Recent Media Focus

A Message from NHPCO President and CEO

J. Donald Schumacher
July 22, 2011

Recent attention in the media has turned a bright spotlight on purported problems in hospice. Only yesterday, NHPCO issued a Regulatory Alert summarizing information put out by the OIG, focused on hospice care in the nursing home, as several previous OIG reports have done. Then, this morning, an article by a Bloomberg News reporter brought much of the same OIG information out again in a more sensationalized, investigative fashion.

First and foremost, NHPCO strongly believes in the value of hospice care as the highest-quality care for patients and family caregivers struggling with serious and life-limiting illness. Furthermore, it is NHPCO’s belief that the overwhelming majority of U.S. hospices are committed to a shared vision to bring the best that humankind can offer to all those individuals facing serious illness, death and grief. Within that vision, however, is the duty of each provider to do the best job possible to ensure that every single patient day of care is within all regulatory and legal limits. NHPCO will not support any provider who fails to strive for the highest level of compliance and practice.

What we do is not easy. We share a sacred covenant with those we serve. In addition to bringing expert care, compassion and dignity to the dying and their family caregivers, we manage multifaceted organizations that are a significant part of the complex American healthcare system. The accomplishments we have made over the past forty years in changing the way we care for the dying is to be celebrated.

NHPCO statistics show more than 1.5 million dying American receive care every year – and this extends beyond Medicare beneficiaries to people of all ages, with an ever increasing number of complex illnesses. NHPCO’s comprehensive survey, the Family Evaluation of Hospice Care, shows 94% of family caregivers surveyed rated care as “very good to excellent.” Additionally, this research shows that if you ask 100 people who’ve had hospice care for a loved one if they’d recommend it to someone else, 98 of them are going to say yes. There are no professionals or volunteers better equipped to meet the unique needs of the dying than those found in the American hospice and palliative care community.

In recent years we have also improved our ability to serve people across all care settings and have made advances in reaching populations where hospice is underutilized. In the decades where we have made such progress, our model of care and the work of the interdisciplinary team has had a positive impact on many other sectors of healthcare.

I am so very proud to represent you and the hundreds of thousands dedicated individuals committed to caring for the dying and their family caregivers. These are the messages I consistently carry to the media and the public. And while it’s difficult to see my words not conveyed fully in the media, that does not diminish my faith in the work we are doing to raise awareness of the high quality care that the overwhelming majority of people receive. Our work at the national, state and local level with the media results in a constant stream of positive news stories and feature pieces that are published in every corner of the country (a selection of which we link in NewsBriefs each week). That said, it is unfortunate that negatively focused articles can lead to confusion and fear among the public, which in some cases may be an added barrier to care when it’s needed most.

Legally, we are not able to comment on specific lawsuits, nor can we talk about individual patient or employee situations. However we can and will continue our work helping providers ensure that the care at the bedside not only meets, but exceeds current regulations and standards.

Long before recent media attention, NHPCO has been committed to increasing quality and helping providers continuously improve performance. This includes:

  • Calling for more consistent and timely regulatory oversight and surveys;
  • Launching NHPCO’s innovative Quality Partners program;
  • Developing a self-assessment program built on the ten foundation blocks of quality;
  • Increasing the number of outcome measurement and data collection tools that are free to our members;
  • Creating the most extensive set of compliance and regulatory tools and resources available in the hospice community for current regulatory requirements: From face-to-face and changes in the cost report, to the requirements reflected in the historic revision to the CMS hospice regulations, including the Medicare Hospice Conditions of Participation;
  • Providing expert regulatory and compliance guidance to the field;
  • Revising the landmark publication, Standards of Practice for Hospice Providers, to reflect the most up-to-date regulatory guidelines;
  • Offering professional development opportunities onsite and via the Internet that bring expert training in a multitude of formats;
  • Sharing best practices and allowing the nation’s hospice community to network and learn from one another in conferences, forums, e-groups, and more.

NHPCO is committed to serving the entire hospice and palliative care community. Among our membership are programs large and small, urban and rural, nonprofit and for-profit, government owned and faith-based, single site and multi-site, the variations go on, and this diversity enriches our organization and the field. Despite these differences our commitment to caring and excellence is the same.

In my thirty-five years as a hospice and palliative care leader (as a CEO and now in my role leading NHPCO and its affiliates) I’ve met thousands, of hospice professionals (both paid and volunteer) who share a commitment to excellence. To a person, they share the same beliefs – that the dying and their family caregivers deserve the very best care that humankind has to offer them. These passion-driven professionals bring compassion and dignity to people when fears are many and hope seems out of reach.

I hope you share these words of encouragement with your staff, volunteers, board members and supporters.

We will continue our ongoing work at NHPCO to reach out and inform, educate, advocate and build awareness about the quality care you provide.

Finally, let me reaffirm the work of NHPCO and assure you that we stand with you to make a difference in the lives of people who need the support and caring we provide.

J. Donald Schumacher, PsyD
President and CEO

For more information visit,

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

NHPCO and NHF Salute 2011 Circle of Life Award® Winners

Award Recognizes Innovative Providers of End-of-Life Care

(Alexandria, Va) – National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and the National Hospice Foundation honor the recipients of the 2011 Circle of Life Award®. Presented on July 18 at the American Hospital Association’s annual summit held in San Diego, the award celebrates innovation in end-of-life care and highlights programs that demonstrate superior vision, depth, and scope. The 2011 Circle of Life Award winners are:

  • The Center for Hospice & Palliative Care, Cheektowaga, New York
  • Gilchrist Hospice Care, Hunt Valley, Maryland
  • St. John Providence Health System, Detroit, Michigan

In announcing the honored recipients, AHA emphasized that these programs share overriding themes of compassion, dedication and collaboration. Gilchrist Hospice Care has successfully integrated palliative care across hospital, hospice services, physician groups, patient homes and long-term care and assisted living facilities. St. John Providence Health System has hardwired palliative care into every service and educated staff, so that no matter where an individual enters the system they are evaluated for palliative care needs. The Center for Hospice & Palliative Care provides a very-extensive care continuum and a sophisticated palliative care institute, with strong emphasis on collaboration, physician leadership and clinical research.

In addition to the three award winners, AHA presented Citations of Honor to other exemplary care providers:

  • Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center Palliative Care Service, Lebanon, New Hampshire
  • John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County Palliative Care Program, Chicago, Illinois
  • St. Mary's Health Care System, Athens, Georgia
  • University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Supportive and Palliative Care Program, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

“These programs serve as models for us all as we move forward in our shared goal of providing the highest quality of care for all those we serve,” said J. Donald Schumacher, NHPCO and NHF president and CEO. “The importance of quality end-of-life care is at the heart of our organization’s strategic plan and we are proud to celebrate those care providers that are leading the way in innovation and quality care delivery.”

“NHPCO and NHF are particularly proud that all three 2011 Circle of Life Award winners and three of the four citation of honor recipients are NHPCO members,” Schumacher added.

The 2011 awards are supported, in part, by the California HealthCare Foundation, based in Oakland, and by the Archstone Foundation. Major sponsors of the 2011 awards are the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and the National Hospice Foundation, as well as the American Hospital Association, the Catholic Health Association, and the National Consensus Project for Quality Palliative Care; the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine and the National Association of Social Workers are Circle of Life cosponsors.

Since 2000, the Circle of Life Award has honored programs that demonstrate excellence and innovation in palliative and end-of-life care. Further information about the honorees and the Circle of Life Award is available at the AHA website.


Media Contacts:

Jon Radulovic

Ph: 703-837-3139

Jennifer Armstrong Gay
Ph: 202-626-2342

Note: Look for additional information about this year’s Circle of Life Award recipients in NHPCO’s NewsLine later in the year.

Read the American Hospital Association press release on the AHA website.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

"Hospices are Serving a Critical Need" in Kaiser Health News

NHPCO's Don Schumacher writes in Kaiser Health News about the benefits and value of hospice care. He stresses the importance of quality end-of-life care and calls for well-informed discussions. Schumacher's article begins:

"As Congress works to come to terms with the economic challenges facing our nation, it's inevitable that discussions focus on health care. With an estimated one third of Medicare spending going towards care of beneficiaries in the last year of life, attention has understandably turned to the rising costs of hospice care. Hospice is the leading provider of palliative care services for those facing serious and life-limiting illness."

Read the full piece on the Kaiser Health News website.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

ACOs: Some Thoughts for Hospice Providers

There has been quite a buzz about Accountable Care Organizations since they were included in healthcare reform legislation. ACOs are a new and innovative model for care delivery that is being applied for the first time to Medicare.

NHPCO members will find that the cover article of July’s NewsLine (visit will help you understand a bit more about ACOs. We are honored to have Julie Lewis—one of the nation’s leading experts on the subject—share some insight with us. In April,

In addition to this NewsLine article which includes some suggested resources, I want to offer a couple of thoughts:

  • Hospice and palliative care providers have an attractive range of services that ACOs would want to have available to their participants.
  • Working with an ACO affords hospice and palliative care providers an excellent platform to help broaden their reach within their service area.
  • Due to the many restrictions and the complexity of the proposed regulations, it is unlikely that many hospice providers will be able to serve as an organizing partner of an ACO; however, the opportunity to contract with an ACO in their service area is well worth exploring.

One frequent question I’ve gotten from members is whether participating in an ACO will change reimbursement. Unlike bundled payment models, the ACO model envisions continued use of the current Medicare reimbursement structure.

I am interested in your thoughts about ACOs and what activity you might see in your area, so please feel free to share any developments with us at NHPCO.