Why Your Healthcare Organization Needs a Hospice Division

Heather SinclairBusiness Insurance, Health Insurance

When the end comes, most of us agree that it’s best to go pain-free at home with our families, rather than surrounded by a sterile medical environment and strangers.

The hospice movement began in London, 1967, when physician Dame Cicely Saunders founded St. Christopher’s Hospice. The movement eventually came to the States by way of the Yale School of Nursing, where nurses combined medical, psychological, and spiritual treatments to comfort dying patients. They offered a dignified, painless way for patients to die.

Originally a social movement, hospice has now become a massive, multimillion dollar industry served by nonprofit and for-profit institutions alike. 52% are for-profit, 35% are nonprofit, and 13% are operated by the government.

Hospitals and healthcare organizations are increasingly adding palliative care options like hospice programs to their business models, and yours should too.

1. Since 1982, Medicare has provided hospice benefits to patients who have no more than six months left to live (as certified by two doctors). This reimbursement essentially makes hospice available to everyone. Congress seems content funding this endeavor indefinitely.

2. Hospice programs are especially profitable. These programs lend themselves well to careful business decisions in regards to staffing and the recruitment of patients. A 2005 study in the Journal of Palliative Medicine found hospice programs owned by large for-profit companies generate margins nine times higher than nonprofit hospice programs. Hospice programs are paid by Medicare and insurance providers by day, not per treatment (like most other forms of healthcare).

3. Hospice programs benefit greatly from doctor referrals. Patients and their families rarely shop for a hospice program as they would a primary care physician or specialist. They are overwhelmed and unwilling to make complicated decisions during this time. When a doctor, hospital or nursing home recommends a program, the patients and families usually accept this option immediately, without evaluating the program’s merits. Hospice programs that work closely with doctors in the same healthcare organization can collaborate on the best care practices that suit the patient and the business.

4. Volunteerism is popular in the hospice industry. At any given time, there are more than 400,000 volunteers providing certain levels of care, spending time with patients, and other duties. This is an extremely effective way of trimming costs while providing valuable, rewarding volunteer experiences to the community and bolstering the spirits of ailing patients.

5. This specialized niche of the healthcare industry is growing rapidly. Soon, the aging baby boomer population will be seeking hospice care from their healthcare providers in tremendous numbers. 

Your hospice program doesn’t have to be heartless. Many programs allow patients to continue to receive treatment during hospice care. There have been many instances where hospice care has ceased because a patient has recovered significantly or resolved to continue treatment.

Without a doubt, developing a hospice program for your healthcare organization is a smart and effective way to meet the needs of your patients and achieve your business goals.

Heather Sinclair
Risk Management Consultant

Why Your Healthcare Organization Needs a Hospice Division