Beginning with a December 2013 article in The Washington Post, there have been several less-than-flattering reports on hospice care in the national media. Some of the concerns raised have involved allegations of questionable marketing practices, of improper billing of Medicare, and of unethical patient admission and discharge policies.
On June 25, the president and CEO of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization participated in an informative and constructive National Public Radio discussion during Tom Ashbrook’s “On Point” show (http://onpoint.wbur.org/2014/06/25/hospice-care-business). As Mr. Ashbrook said in his introduction, “A generation ago, hospice was almost unknown. A few non-profits here and there. Today, hospice care has exploded into a huge, multi-billion dollar business. With lots of distinctly, aggressively for-profit players.”
But even as Americans make greater use of hospice care, families often don’t grasp that they have a choice of programs. And when the time comes to decide, many are in the middle of a health care crisis that makes researching the options difficult.
The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization urges consumers to do their homework! Helpful questions to ask hospice providers have been compiled in the free worksheet “Choosing a Quality Hospice for You or Your Loved Ones” available at www.nhpco.org/press-room/press-releases/choosing-quality-hospice. Questions such as, Is the hospice accredited by a national organization? How many patients at any one time are assigned to each hospice staff member who will be caring for the patient? Are physicians, nurses and social workers certified or credentialed in hospice and palliative care?” These important considerations are difficult to undertake if families wait unit a few days before death.
On behalf of the only Joint Commission accredited not-for-profit hospice serving our community, I encourage patients and their loved ones to become savvy consumers about what is likely to be the most important health care decision you make in your life. Don’t let a few bad apples in the hospice industry prevent you from accessing the help and support you need and deserve.
Debra Anthony Larson
President and CEO
Hospice Savannah, Inc.