3 ways ACOs could improve end-of-life care

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Accountable care organizations could lead the way on end-of-life care innovations.

Accountable care organizations could introduce significant end-of-life care innovation, breaking down structural problems endemic to those services.

There is significant variation in how people use end-of-life care services, and how much they need, according to a blog post from Health Affairs. Patients also typically only have access to a specific menu of services, though the effects of terminal illness can vary widely between patients. 

End-of-life and palliative care play a role in the transition to value-based care, which is why ACOs could take the lead in reform.

“While the ACO model has generated little momentum toward improving [end-of-life] care, the conditions are right for a more thoughtful integration of palliative and hospice services into the ACO care continuum,” according to the blog.

RELATED: 5 ways the healthcare industry can improve end-of-life care

The post includes three strategies ACOs could adopt to bolster end-of-life care:

  1. Collaborate with hospice providers that offer high quality care. If ACOs partner with high-quality hospice services, they can break down silos between these disparate groups and improve patient care. 
  2. Expand patients’ access to palliative care services. Integrated palliative care can reduce unwanted, and expensive, treatments. 
  3. Offer end-of-life options tailored to specific conditions. Medicare’s hospice benefit is very one-size-fits-all. If ACOs find success, CMS would pay attention. 

The business case for palliative care is pretty clear for all healthcare organizations, too. A new study suggests that for cancer patients it can significantly reduce utilization, making it a key option for oncologists and other physicians to have available.

“Given the increasing number of older patients with advanced cancer, this study provides important context for the need of early integration of palliative care in oncology,” said study author James Murphy M.D., of the University of California, San Diego, in an announcement.

“Providing a consultation earlier rather than later represents an important area for practice improvement.”

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