After reading an article in the Wall Street Journal about Hospice, baby boomers, and the industry diversifying, I was compelled to write my own post on the subject. While I do think the industry has become more diversified and moved away from being primarily rooted in Oncology…I think the baby boomers may force us to broaden our scope even further in the years to come.
Right now its very common for patients and families to seek out Hospice when they believe death is near and hope is gone. But I believe that in the future,people will be more inclined to think about Hospice much earlier and as an important, and even necessary, part of life. We should be encouraging patients and families to participate fully in the Hospice Experience.
We should focus less on length of stay and more on getting patients and families the full extent of what Hospice has to offer…and do it as soon as possible – once a life limiting illness is diagnosed. Based on family satisfaction surveys, patients and families that fully experience hospice seem to be more capable of coping with the inevitable loss of a loved one in a healthy and productive way.
Generally speaking, and mainly because of the current reimbursement systems, hospice organizations today are more focused on the cost of providing hospice services and trying to reduce the length of stay. Perhaps a far more strategic approach should be looking at the cost of not getting patients and families involved with hospice early enough…for long enough. I’m willing to wager there is both a financial and emotional upside to earlier and more in-depth involvement.
I do recognize that the current reimbursement environment rewards today’s behavior. A true comparison between the cost of hospice and palliative care versus the cost of curative treatments for patients and the long term emotional impact (and cost) related to surviving family may help shine a brighter light on the necessity of redefining how hospice is used in the future.