4 reasons hospice, palliative care gaining momentum

A recent study took the healthcare industry to task for failing to provide adequate end-of-life planning and reduce patient suffering, yet there may be hope amid the gloom thanks to an increased emphasis on hospice and palliative care, futurist Ian Morrison, Ph.D., writes in an opinion piece for Hospitals & Health Networks Daily.

"Patients and families consistently report preferences to die peacefully at home, but all too often we die in hospitals with a highly medicalized and uncomfortable end," he writes. Though perhaps in response to that conundrum, "the hospice and palliative care movement keeps gaining momentum."

Here are four trends that drive this gain in momentum, according to Morrison:

Greater care coordination. An increased focus on the continuum of care on the part of payers and providers will power a greater interest in partnership with palliative care and hospice organizations, Morrison says, noting the example of managed care organizations operated by Medicare and Medicaid. Morrison also predicts that more hospice organizations will consolidate into larger entities.

Value-based shift. As incentives increase for health systems to focus on patient outcomes rather than patient volume, expect to see more large healthcare organizations develop "integrated palliative and hospice care services," Morrison writes. Indeed, research has already indicated that training staff in palliative care measures can help improve patient outcomes, FierceHealthcare has reported, which should be of interest to organizations eager to adapt to the federal government's transition to value-based payment models.

Expanded hospice care scope. As it evolves, hospice care will serve a much wider patient base than its original focus of terminal cancer patients, Morrison says, fueled in part by an increased national policy focus on Alzheimer's and dementia. Along similar lines, the scope of palliative care also has expanded to include not just dying patients but those managing chronic conditions in all age groups.

Increased number of organizations. The most recent data from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization indicates that the number of hospice organizations as well as the number of patients they serve have increased from 2009 to 2013, Morrison says. And a future increase in the supply of such care options may be aided by organizations like the Hospice and Palliative Care Nurses Association, which has spearheaded the effort to train more healthcare professionals to care for patients with serious illnesses, according to FierceHealthcare.

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