By Victor Montour
When people are trying to make decisions about which hospice to enroll in most want to choose a hospice that will deliver the best possible care for whatever time they have left. In order for most people to do this they need advice or information. So here’s my advice.
- As a consumer you have the right to choose the hospice of your choice. It is unlawful for a healthcare professional to pressure you or make you use a hospice that you have not chosen.
- You can ask your doctor for advice. Your doctor may be able to tell you the names of the hospices he or she have used in the past and their experience working with them. But also ask your doctor if he or she has a financial relationship with that hospice. Some doctors are employed by hospices, and may have a financial incentive to refer. So beware.
- If a referral to hospice needs to be made while you’re in an acute care hospital setting, again you will want to ask if the hospice is affiliated to or owned by the hospital. Again beware, some hospital systems require their staff to refer to the hospital owned hospice with little regard to the patients wishes or choice. Remember you have the right to choice and must be allowed to choose the hospice you want to use.
As you are doing your due diligence I recommend you call the hospices in your area. Set up a time to interview your choices. During this interview you as a consumer should find out what you can expect from the hospice.
- What services they provide? And when are the services provided? Listen to see if the hospice will work around your needs and preferences or are you put into a model of care that is centered around the hospice and its staff.
- Does the hospice provide all four levels of hospice care?” (That’s routine home care, inpatient care, continuous care at home, and respite care). Medicare-certified hospices are required to provide all four, but many don’t. To learn more about the four levels of care in hospice check out our blog Do You Know The Four Levels of Care
- The most important question to ask “Is your hospice certified by The Joint Commission or the Community Health Accreditation Program?” Abbreviated as TJC and CHAP, these are organizations that visit and inspect hospices regularly. As a consumer you have the right to see the results from the inspections. You will want to look for any patient care issues. A hospice with a large number of deficiencies or more deficiencies in patient care should be avoided as a consumer.
- Another very important question to ask is “Are your physicians board-certified in hospice and palliative care?” This is a good indication that a hospice takes its medical care very seriously.
- You will want to ask the hospice” Do you allow your patients to utilize their PCP while receiving hospice services?” If the hospice tells you, you have to use the hospice physician, beware again. As a consumer you have the right to use your primary care provider as the physician to direct your care on hospice. This being said, you may have to change physicians if you choose to be placed in a skilled nursing facility or are receiving care in a facility that only allows physicians to provide care that are credentialed to provide care in the said facility.
- Ask does the hospice measure and improve the quality of care that they provide to their patients? If they reply yes your next question needs to be How?” Any hospice that doesn’t have a quick and clear answer for this question probably isn’t serious about patient care.
- Does the hospice have any special programs or other certifications?
- You could ask what makes their hospice stand out among the rest.
Finally, one last word of advice. Choosing wisely takes time. So start thinking early about what hospice you’d want when the time comes. How early? People typically enroll in hospice very late. More than half of patients in the U.S. enroll in the last three weeks of life, and about a third enroll in the last week. That’s too late to make careful decisions. So start asking questions now. Think of it as insurance, so when the time comes — as it will, for all of us — you’ll be ready to make a thoughtful choice that’s consistent with your preferences.
If you would like more information about Front Range Hospice please call 303-957-3101 or 970-776-8080 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org