Palliative Care Serves the Whole Person

When hospice is mentioned, many people think of the ultimate outcome rather than the period of care a seriously ill patient needs and receives under the at-home model of healthcare. It’s an impression that is worth correcting in favor of recognition of the whole-person treatment palliative care provides. It’s also important to consider what it takes to operate a palliative care business that focuses on best practices and excellent staffing.

One of the benefits of hospice over using a nursing home facility is the personalized care that treats the whole person, not just the symptoms at hand. Palliative care identifies, assesses and treats pain along with other physical problems, not necessarily only those related to the life-threatening illness that made hospice an option in the first place. In so doing, hospice agencies partner with other healthcare organizations and doctors, as well as insurers, and Medicare. Using best practices, hospice providers can avoid potential liability issues regarding medications, billing and treatment plans.

Hospice centers (as well as in home hospice providers) also use data and metrics to demonstrate the value of at-home end-of-life care for patients and families. In fact, the American Hospital Association includes the use of such metrics in its criteria for its prestigious Circle of Life Award. Those criteria, which comprise industry-recognized best practices, also include the pursuit of quality improvement consistent with the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s (NHPCO) Standards of Practice for Hospice Programs, the National Consensus Project Clinical Practice Guidelines for Quality Palliative Care and other industry best standards. Focusing on these criteria can also help hospice providers avoid potential professional liability issues.

In addition, palliative care addresses psychosocial and spiritual needs and helps patients and their families deal with the variety of stages presented near the end of life. Fr. Tom Welk, chaplain at the Harry Hynes Memorial Hospice in Wichita, Kansas, recently told The Wichita Eagle that he often finds that patients who are “hanging on so hard” also have “some unfinished business in their lives.” This might include worrying that a spouse will be cared for after their death or that their children are going to be fine. Patients may also have someone they need to reconcile with or have financial concerns. Hospice can help patients deal with these personal issues that go beyond medical treatment. Though this kind of care is not professional medical, financial or psychological advice, it requires special training. As a result, it is important that hospice organizations comply with all regulations, licensing and certifications in the states where they operate.

Hospice helps patients—and their families—deal with serious issues of pain management without hastening death, something many people are concerned about. Coordinating those decisions between patient, family and home health care providers is part of the palliative care that hospice can offer. It closes the loose ends and sometimes gives the reassurance both family and patient need that death won’t be as miserable and frightful as they may have thought.

Both medical professionals and volunteers may have a role in the at-home care a dying patient receives, and it is important that all participants in the hospice effort be coordinated in their approach, treatment and messaging. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) says, “Palliative care should be part of a broader continuum of care, thereby avoiding abrupt changes in the medical course.” There are often competing goals: for example, getting it over with versus being there for family as long as possible or avoiding too much pain. Having a fully coordinated plan under the umbrella of hospice care can bring much-needed comfort to the patient and family as well as the professional healthcare providers involved. This coordination should include communicating with insurers as well, since concerns over financial provisions are often a source of stress.

Hospice agencies that can testify to their own insurance protections grant additional—and crucial—assurances to patients and demonstrate a serious interest in professionalism. Quality insurance, coupled with proper certifications and top-notch partnerships are key components of hospice best practices and should be part of an overall strategy and business culture.

Manchester Specialty provides total insurance solutions to the home health care, hospice and medical staffing industry. Our insurance products include General and Professional Liability, Workers’ Compensation, Non-Owned & Hired Auto, Directors & Officers Liability, Employment Practices Liability and other key coverages. We can help hospice agencies, palliative care providers and their insurance brokers navigate the coverage needs of a home health care business and find the best fit for insurance coverage. For more information about our insurance solutions, you or your local agent/broker may contact us at 855.972.9399.