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Hospice does its part to create value for Medicare

Published: Friday, May 24, 2013 11:30 a.m. CST

To the editor:

Skiff Hospice is a mission-driven organization that provides compassionate care for individuals living with a life-limiting illness.  We do so through quality medical, emotional, spiritual and social support.  Our commitment is first and foremost to the patients and families we serve.

But we are also responsible to others, including the community, our own staff and, yes, even the payers who make Skiff Hospice financially possible.  Being accountable to payers, including private insurance companies, Medicaid and Medicare, means Skiff Hospice must be committed to providing value; that is, quality care and efficient services at a fair cost.

My job as the director of Skiff Hospice is to provide leadership that ensures faithful adherence to our standards for high value.  Expectations are growing for care providers, including Skiff Hospice, to make sure that reimbursement through entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid are still adding value to the services they support.

For years the hospice and palliative care community has made the case that hospice enrollment creates cost savings for Medicare.  A new report published in the March issue of Health Affairs indicates this to be true: Hospice patients have lower Medicare costs, reduced use of hospital services and that hospice care improves overall care quality.

Researchers found that hospice patients had significantly lower rates of hospital and intensive care use, hospital readmissions and in-hospital death when compared to non-hospice patients.  The study also reveals that savings to Medicare are present for both cancer patients and non-cancer patients. Moreover, these savings appear to grow as the period of hospice enrollment lengthens.  Reductions in use of hospital services at end of life both contribute to these savings and potentially improve quality of care and patients’ quality of life.

Is saving money the goal of hospice?  Of course not.  The goal of everyone in health care is to provide the right care, at the right time and in the right place.  Many people in Iowa and across the nation are learning that there is a time when aggressive treatment, intensive care and long hospital stays are no longer worth the toll they can take on quality of life.  When that time comes, hospice is often the right care as it allows patients and their families the comfort and control we all want at the end of life.

Skiff Hospice is proud to provide patient-centered care and to support quality of life.  This can mean not doing everything we can, but instead doing everything we should.  In this way, we provide value to our patients and our community.

Brenda Smith

Director of Skiff Hospice


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