Highlights of the November Issue of the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management

Listed below are a few articles from the most recent issue of the journal:

Promoting Evidence in Practice

Methylprednisolone for the Prophylaxis of Pain Flare: Commentary on Yousef and El-mashad
Susannah Ellsworth

Challenges to Pain Medicine Management at Home: Commentary on the Schumacher et al. Papers
Jane B. Hopkinson

Original Articles

Pre-Emptive Value of Methylprednisolone Intravenous Infusion in Patients With Vertebral Metastasis. A Double-Blind Randomized Study
Ayman Abd Al-maksoud Yousef and Nehal Mohamed El-mashad

Pain Medication Management Processes Used by Oncology Outpatients and Family Caregivers Part I: Health Systems Contexts
Karen L. Schumacher, Vicki L. Plano Clark, Claudia M. West, Marylin J. Dodd, Michael W. Rabow, and Christine Miaskowski

Pain Medication Management Processes Used by Oncology Outpatients and Family Caregivers Part II: Home and Lifestyle Contexts
Karen L. Schumacher, Vicki L. Plano Clark, Claudia M. West, Marylin J. Dodd, Michael W. Rabow, and Christine Miaskowski

A Randomized Trial of the Effectiveness of Topical “ABH Gel” (Ativan®, Benadryl®, Haldol®) Versus Placebo in Cancer Patients With Nausea
Devon S. Fletcher, Patrick J. Coyne, Patricia W. Dodson, Gwendolyn G. Parker, Wen Wan, and Thomas J. Smith

To access the articles, you must subscribe to JPSM or be a member of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM). For further information on the Academy, call 847.375.4712 or visit aahpm.org.

Submitted by: David J. Casarett, MD, MA, Senior Associate Editor, JPSM

Suffering is in the Eyes of the Beholder

A recent morning brought the news that 29 year-old Brittany Maynard had ended her life rather than continue what she perceived to be intolerable suffering from an incurable brain tumor. About an hour later I watched a sports report on college freshman, Lauren Hall who the previous day fulfilled her dream of playing in a college basketball game on the team she had been recruited for despite the fact that her doctors said she had only weeks to live as the result of an incurable brain tumor.

Although my only knowledge of these two women is what I see in the media, I was first struck by the similarities between them. Both young, white women with incurable brain tumors who seem to have good social supports, no psychological issues and would seem to have had the opportunity to have access to some of the best health care the world has to offer. Both seem to be in full control of their own lives despite their tragic diseases. Despite all of those major similarities, they seem to have opted to take starkly different roads to their own death. To be clear, I am not implying anything about the goodness, badness, rightness or wrongness of either road. Quite the contrary. My point is the difficulty of determining the right and wrong for any given person despite so many similarities or of making judgments in that regard. One of the lessons I continued to relearn as a chaplain with people with terminal cancer is how ways of approaching the end of one’s life that seemed “wrong” to me gave great meaning and comfort to some patients who chose them.

So what is going on here? My suspicion is that a key issue is how each of us defines and understands “suffering” in our own lives and the lives of others. The reports on Brittany Maynard focused on suffering from physical symptoms. Yet, Lauren Hill suffers from many physical issues. In Brittany’s case, that suffering was at least portrayed by the media as dominating her life and her decision making. In Lauren’s case, that suffering was seemingly put aside and diminished in significance in the service of another goal. Why the difference? Social or psychological factors don’t seem to account for it.

Dame Cicely Saunders taught us many years ago that pain (and suffering) exists in four domains. The one unaccounted for here is the spiritual or existential domain. This domain includes the part of our lives in which meaning making resides. So the degree of any one person’s perceived suffering may not be at all correlated with the intensity of pain in the physical, social or psychological dimensions. That correlation may depend on the meaning of the pain or distress. I have seen many patients for whom physical pain actually reduces their suffering because they believe that any physical pain negates some amount of sin thy have committed and thus brings them closer to being granted eternal life in heaven. Other patients take great comfort from the belief that their illness is caused by their God because it proves that this God is still in control and it is the idea of that control that gives them comfort in their lives. Neither of these beliefs matches my belief system but they clearly reduce suffering for many.
I would submit that the spiritual/existential dimension has more power over how we make decisions about how our lives will come to conclusion (when we are allowed that decision) than is commonly appreciated. Further, as little as we understand the physical, social, and psychological dimensions of suffering, we understand the existential/spiritual dimension far less.

I have no idea why Brittany Maynard and Lauren Hill have apparently taken such different paths and I don’t think I or maybe anyone can ever truly know because only they can appreciate what constitutes “suffering” in their lives and where they each find meaning and comfort. For others to make judgments about the degree of their suffering and how it could be/should be coped with is dangerous territory indeed because we know so little about it and virtually never include it in the calculus of how health care is delivered.

The point here is not to come to this understanding in order to be able to guide all people facing deaths terminal illness to some “best” outcome. The point is to be able to better understand the existential/spiritual dimension and incorporate it in care in order to help patients to the decisions that seem best to them and to make the living out of those decisions possible. Maybe we can come to the day when patients will make informed decisions about what best reduces their suffering and live those decisions out so routinely that it will not be a matter that warrants national news coverage.

The Rev. George Handzo, BCC, CSSBB
Handzo Consulting, LLC

Ebola and Hospice and Palliative Medicine

With all the news about Ebola, I suspect many of us are thinking about what our role might be in an outbreak. Certainly patients dying of this distressing disease can use excellent symptom management, but are there things we can learn from all this?

Here are my initial thoughts, but I would love to hear what others are thinking!

Lessons from Ebola in 2014

  1. Fear can make people crazy.
    1. Screening at airports and travel restrictions are unlikely to really protect us.
    2. A whole school in California closed because a student had been on board the plane with the second nurse infected in Dallas.
    3. Remember the Memorial Hospital calamity in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina?
  2. Lethal infectious diseases can suddenly become a threat.
    1. SARS and avian flu could have been much scarier.
    2. Tens of thousands die from influenza in the US every year.
  3. Patients infected with Ebola, patients with advanced incurable disease, and all patients, deserve good care.
    1. In times of crisis, life-prolonging care has been denied to anyone with a DNR.
    2. It can be important to continually remind our colleagues and community that “our patients count too”!
  4. With preparations, supplies, and training it is possible to care for patients with scary diseases without harming healthcare workers or their families.
    1. The preparations and training now taking place in US hospitals may or may not be necessary for Ebola but may be essential for the next scary disease.
    2. More work developing telemedicine consultations could help alleviate our workforce shortage, help with continuity of care, and allow care without exposure to disease.
  5. Preparation and collaboration with other institutions can make a huge difference in a crisis.
    1. Several patients were cared for at Emory without upset but in Dallas, they weren’t prepared.
    2. After a series of hurricanes in Florida when gasoline supplies ran out, the hospices that could reach their patients had arrangements with farm co-ops for gasoline.
    3. Deliveries could stop. Hospitals could stockpile the medications and equipment a hospice or palliative care service would need to continue caring for critically ill patients at home.
  6. What really does matter, anyway?
    1. Ultimate “safety” in the face of our inevitable mortality may be an elusive goal.
    2. The good of the community might be one guiding principle
    1. It’s reasonable for scarce life-saving resources to be allocated to those most likely to survive.
    2. Even in times of crisis, our vulnerable patients still need our care.
    3. We might have a crucial role in caring for patients triaged to forgo life-extending care – if we are prepared.
    1. A crisis can bring out the worst in some but the best in others.
    1. There are lots of “quiet heroes” doing the right thing, even at risk to themselves and possibly their families.
    2. We can be a model being kind and generous, even in the scariest of times.

    As one of our brave colleagues who is readying herself to depart for a volunteer medical work in Liberia put it:

    We must encourage AAHPM members to be sure they are already incorporated into their own agency’s/facilities/organization’s disaster response team. Palliative care needs to be amongst the first groups to be activated.

    Palliative care in these humanitarian crises is crucial. While most responders will rightly be focused on the critical care, palliation for those with a month or less to live (potentially) is even more crucial.

    How do we bring our ‘touch’ to these, when we cannot touch?

    How can we see eyeball to eyeball, heart to heart through a hazmat suit?

    How do we help create legacy and foster healing for those loved ones who are on the other side of the quarantine wall?

    Fostering healing in a hurting world . . . “The first duty of love is to listen.” (Paul Tillich)

    Porter Storey MD FACP FAAHPM
    Executive VP, AAHPM
    Colorado Permanente Medical Group
    Boulder, CO

Spirituality + Religion? Spirituality vs. Religion? Spirituality includes Religion?

Discussion around spirituality and religion are more evident and public in our academic circles and in our society in general. A good thing I believe. A stroll through my Twitter feeds this morning yielded an article about a legal challenge in New York State to the tax exempt status of a pagan group presumably in part over whether they are really a religion and yet another article on this much examined group in our society called “spiritual but not religious” which utterly confused and conflated “spiritual but not religious” with “unaffiliated”. In research circles, there is ongoing debate about how we define what these concepts are that we are going to research. In the US military, there is much heated debate about whether service members should be allowed to list “humanist” as their religious affiliation.

Ken Pargament and his colleagues published an article on sorting out the definitions of “spirituality” and “religion” which was subtitled “Unfuzzying the Fuzzy”. A worthy goal for sure but one that, in this case, is not going to be easily achieved as testified to by the fact that the article was written 17 years ago and the debate seems to go on unabated. As a health care chaplain who has been privileged to discuss these issues with people trying to find the role of spirituality/religion in their lives in the midst of severe crises, I believe we have to be more transparent about the idea that this discussion has some very powerful underlying issues.

These concepts touch a part of many of us that is likely at the core of who we are as human beings. It is a core that is certainly described in many of the definitions but its power is often underappreciated. Even those of us actively engaged in the debate or the research or the discussion often underappreciate the power of these concepts in our own lives. Thus this is a discussion that very few if any of us can be dispassionate about. That is OK as long as we are honest with ourselves and others about it. Good science doesn’t require that the scientist be without bias or passion. It only requires that the bias be acknowledged.

A corollary of this centrality is that this debate is often played out as a zero sum game. That is, if your definition of spirituality “wins”, mine “loses” and, in this case, that “loss” feels like it invalidates a core part of who I am. In chaplaincy, we have long tried to teach students that accepting the beliefs of others does not invalidate your own beliefs.

Yes, there is some fuzziness that we can deal with by good research. For instance, good research on who the “unaffiliated” say they are has already discovered that, while they do not belong to an organized religious group, they often do believe in God and even define themselves with a denominational label. So this is a commentary on the perceived relevance of organized religion in our culture but not on a basic shift in how people see themselves.

I am also called back to the work of Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions on how paradigm shifts occur. Particularly, Kuhn points out that during such a shift, there is a time in where the old paradigm is acknowledged to be flawed but no new paradigm is apparent. That neither/nor is going to cause discomfort that is going to drive a search for a new paradigm. We may or may not be in what could really be called a paradigm shift with regard to our beliefs and attitudes about spirituality and religion. However, it might be helpful to think of it that way to help us normalize these tensions.

As I approach these discussions, it is helpful for me to keep a couple things in mind. First, this discussion is not just a nice intellectual exercise. It involves some concepts that I may feel challenge some very basic parts of who I am and how my view of the world is structured. That is scary and can make me defensive if I am not conscious of the issue. Second however, this discussion can and should produce a “win-win” rather than an “I win- you lose”. Therefore, I should remember to not allow others to make me feel that I am “wrong” on a spiritual/existential level and I should try hard to avoid putting others in that position. The goal for me is to separate the academic and societal discussions on these topics that we need to have from any implication that causes people to feel attacked personally.

George Handzo, BCC, CSSBB
President, Handzo Consulting
Senior Consultant, HealthCare Chaplaincy

Highlights of the October Issue of the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management

Listed below are a few articles from the most recent issue of the journal:

Promoting Evidence in Practice

Multidisciplinary Management of Cancer Pain: Commentary on Chen et al.
Julie Waldfogel and Sydney M. Dy

Normal Vital Signs as Death Approaches: Commentary on Bruera, et al.
Jay R. Thomas

Original Articles

Impact of a Clinical Pharmacist-Led Guidance Team on Cancer Pain Therapy in China:A Prospective Multicenter Cohort Study
Jian Chen, Xiao-yang Lu, Wei-jia Wang, Bin Shen, Yun Ye, Hong Jiang, Qi-sheng Wang and Bin Cheng

Variations in Vital Signs in the Last Days of Life in Patients With* Advanced Cancer
Sebastian Bruera, Gary Chisholm, Renata Dos Santos, Camila Crovador, Eduardo Bruera, and David Hui

Research Priorities in Spiritual Care: An International Survey of Palliative Care Researchers and Clinicians
Lucy Selman, Teresa Young, Mieke Vermandere, Ian Stirling, and Carlo Leget, on behalf of the Research Subgroup of the European Association for Palliative Care Spiritual Care Taskforce

Perceptions of Health Status and Survival in Patients with Metastatic Lung Cancer
Joseph A. Greer, William F. Pirl, Vicki A. Jackson, Alona Muzikansky, Inga T. Lennes, Emily R. Gallagher, Holly G. Prigerson, and Jennifer S. Temel

Special Article

Propensity Scores: A Practical Method for Assessing Treatment Effects in Pain and Symptom Management Research
Melissa M. Garrido

Brief Quality Improvement Report

The Effectiveness of the Geritalk Communication Skills Course: A Real-Time Assessment of Skill Acquisition and Deliberate Practice
Laura P. Gelfman, Elizabeth Lindenberger, Helen Fernandez, Gabrielle R. Goldberg, Betty B. Lim, Evgenia Litrivis, Lynn O’Neill, Cardinale B. Smith, and Amy S. Kelley

To access the articles, you must subscribe to JPSM or be a member of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM). For further information on the Academy, call 847.375.4712 or visit aahpm.org.

Submitted by: David J. Casarett, MD, MA, Senior Associate Editor, JPSM

Insights on IOM’s Dying in America Report

For patients and their loved ones, no care decisions are more profound than those made near the end of life. For the millions of Americans who work in or with the health care sector—including clinicians, clergy, caregivers, and support staff—providing high-quality care for people who are nearing the end of life is a matter of professional commitment and responsibility. Health system managers, payers, and policy makers, likewise, have a responsibility to ensure that end-of-life care is compassionate, affordable, sustainable, and of the best quality possible.

      – Dying in America, IOM Report Brief, September 2014

Over the past year and a half, I had the privilege of serving on the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Approaching Death: Addressing Key End-of-Life Issues, along with fellow AAHPM members, Patricia Bomba, Eduardo Bruera, Pamela Hinds, Diane Meier, Judith Peres, Christian Sinclair, Joan Teno and James Tulsky. The outcome was the development of the now well publicized report, Dying in America: Improving Quality and Honoring Individual Preferences Near the End of Life. It is the first report in nearly two decades to address the care of individuals with serious illness and their families – the care you and I provide each and every day. The study concluded that “improving the quality and availability of medical and social services for patients and their families could not only enhance quality of life through the end of life, but may also contribute to a more sustainable care system.”

For those of you who don’t have time to read the full report, here are a few highlights of some of the key recommendations::

  • Government health insurers and care delivery programs as well as private health insurers should cover the provision of comprehensive care for individuals with advanced serious illness who are nearing the end of life. Comprehensive care should
    • be seamless, high-quality, integrated, patient-centered, family-oriented, and consistently accessible around the clock;
    • consider the evolving physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs of individuals approaching the end of life, as well as those of their family and/or caregivers;
    • be competently delivered by professionals with appropriate expertise and training;
    • include coordinated, efficient, and interoperable information transfer across all providers and all settings; and
    • be consistent with individuals’ values, goals, and informed preferences.
  • Care should be characterized by transparency and accountability through public reporting of aggregate quality and cost measures for all aspects of the health care system related to end-of-life care, including quality reporting for advance care planning and communication.
  • All people with advanced serious illness should have access to skilled palliative care or, when appropriate, hospice care in all settings where they receive care.
  • Educational institutions, credentialing bodies, accrediting boards, state regulatory agencies, and health care delivery organizations should establish the appropriate training, certification, and/or licensure requirements to strengthen the palliative care knowledge and skills of all clinicians who care for individuals with advanced serious illness who are nearing the end of life. All clinicians who care for people with advanced serious illness should be competent in basic palliative care, including communication skills, interprofessional collaboration, and symptom management;
  • Federal, state, and private insurance and health care delivery programs should integrate the financing of medical and social services to support the provision of quality care consistent with the values, goals, and informed preferences of people with advanced serious illness nearing the end of life.
  • Civic leaders, public health and other governmental agencies, community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, consumer groups, health care delivery organizations, payers, employers, and professional societies should engage their constituents and provide fact-based information about care of people with advanced serious illness to encourage advance care planning and informed choice based on the needs and values of individuals.

The report concludes with a reminder that “a person-centered family-oriented approach that honors individual preferences and promotes quality of life through the end of life should be a national priority.” I couldn’t agree more.

These recommendations include action items for everyone – for us as individual clinicians, for us as leaders, for our health care delivery and educational organizations and professional organizations, for legislative and regulatory bodies, for payers, and for individuals and families. How will you act on these findings and recommendations? Have you shared it with your colleagues, the executives in your organization, your legislators, your community organizations? Have you talked with the press? I encourage you to offer your thoughts and reactions to, and how you are leveraging and publicizing, the IOM Report in the comments section of this blog post. The discussion will help us improve the care of our seriously ill patients and their families through the thoughtful work of AAHPM and our respective organizations.

Jean S. Kutner, MD MSPH FAAHPM
AAHPM President

What is the difference between Coaching, Mentoring, Counseling, Training and Managing?

by William “Marty” Martin, PsyD MA MPH MS CHES

ACPE faculty member William “Marty” Martin presented a focused session on Coaching and Mentoring at the AAHPM Leadership Forum: Ascend program, September 14-16, 2014. AAHPM Ascend is a new intensive program included in the AAHPM’s comprehensive new Leadership Forum.

Palliative care/hospice leaders must be able to coach, mentor, counsel, train and manage depending upon the individual and situation. How do I know when I’m doing what? Before differentiating each one of these, all of these share the following in common: communication; interpersonal sensitivity; and relationships. The focus of a coach is to guide others by asking questions and structuring a process for that individual to achieve his/her goals. In comparison, a mentor may also guide others in achieving their goals but mentoring is less focused on performance and specific tasks. Mentoring has a broader focus than coaching. Mentoring emphasizes both the professional and personal development of the individual.

Counseling seeks to explore the underlying dynamics of individuals and their relationships. Counselors and coaches both ask questions but counselors tend not to address tasks and performance. The goal for counseling is to promote self-understanding and self-acceptance.

Training is all about the acquisition and mastery of knowledge and skills. As a trainer, you must rely upon other tools other than asking questions such as lecturing, giving feedback on assignments, and in some cases, offering evaluative feedback.

Finally, as a manager, the aim is to assure that the individual “does his/her job” or “fulfills his/her contractual duties.” In reality, if you are a physician leader, then you function as a coach, mentor, counselor, trainer and manager. You want to be sure you give a clear signal to the other individual to reduce any role confusion and role conflict.

Leaders Set the Tone

By Kevin E. O’Connor, CSP

ACPE faculty member Kevin E. O’Connor, CSP, presented focused sessions on Relationship Building and Change Management at the AAHPM Leadership Forum: Ascend program, September 14-16, 2014. AAHPM Ascend is a new intensive program included in the AAHPM’s comprehensive new Leadership Forum.

People crave two things: they want to feel connected and included. Instead of jumping headfirst into the content of your information, take time to make sure your listeners feel at home with you and their surroundings.

Create the atmosphere right from the beginning with your introductions and opening. Be enthusiastic, but maintain your calm as you begin to give directions.

Make sure you introduce key participants and define their role in the group. Clearly set out the agenda and overall goals for the meeting.

An audience who feels welcome and included will work harder to reach positive outcomes under the guidance of you, their leader. Here’s how to settle them in.

  • Always suggest, never demand. “Consider XYZ” instead of “Clearly, XYZ presents the most effective option.”
  • Question. Lace your presentation and their discussion time with relevant questions. “In your clinical experience, what three areas proved most important?”
  • Review. Guide them through their own learning. Use a flipchart to post statements. “What do these points mean to you?” Discussion always ensues.

Managing Fear and Bad News

How very little can be done under the spirit of fear.
Florence Nightingale, nurse

When we label fear as fear, it controls us. Be wary of how fear can outmatch the goal. When you deliver unpleasant news or when you face a hostile client or group, make sure you prepare them for what you have to say.

  • Frame your message in terms of their concerns, even if you need to be focused on a specific topic.
  • Revitalize the group’s energy by allowing them to share the things they worry about – professional and personal implications.
  • Avoid letting the “we” become “me.”
  • Capture the power of metaphors. Has someone used an image you can piggyback off? Are you climbing a mountain together? Hurdling an obstacle?

Leaders Take Risks.
Successful leaders understand that risk taking is an essential component to a fulfilling career. The issue is not in the risk activity itself, but in how a leader can take risks and display courage in order to lead effectively and influence others.

Courage can often be a series of small steps taken in the right direction at the right time regardless of the prevailing wisdom of those who remain at a standstill. Often risk is scary not because of the task that needs to be done but because of the uncertainty of the outcome.

There are risks and costs to a program of action, but they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.” John F. Kennedy

Smart leaders help make courageous commitments as conservatively as needed. A leader’s role is to move the team, not just take the risks themselves. A successful leader will focus on the small steps that will lead a group to the end goal.

  • Will you make sure expectations are in alignment through candid discussion with your team?
  • Will you fight against ambiguity within your team environment by not promoting secrecy or confusion?
  • Will you view encouragement as a vital way to empower and encourage your team members?

A leader rewards those who attempt even if they fail. Make a point to console your team members who become discouraged when their attempts fail. Enjoy their successes and bestow some positive publicity whenever possible. Share the times when your own risks paid off or when your own failures led to growth in other areas.

I think all great innovations are built on rejection.”
Sculptor Louise Nevelson

A leader ensures that all ideas are up for discussion. Strive to encourage disagreement, diversity and openness. Work to create an environment that fosters contribution and cooperation instead of competition and secrecy, an environment in which your team members feel free to share their talents.

All Risk Involves Movement: A Step, Jump, or Leap.

  • A step is moving forward incrementally, as you do when walking.
  • Jumps are a series of calculated moves designed to achieve a goal.
  • Leaps are the most risky, undertaken because of an underlying belief that you (and your team) will have sufficient momentum to reach your target.

When Risk Runs Relationships

The way a leader responds or reacts to normal natural conflict sets the tenor of events to come. Regardless of what the other person does, decide what you will do. This is the essential heartbeat of leadership. In Latin, it is called “locus” or the place of control deep within you. Know your locus-of-control and you will always have the choice to act as you need to act.

Leaders who work to elicit ideas from team members allow for people to feel what they want the most – involvement, affirmation, and ownership. Making change happen is a leader’s riskiest move. It is a test of whether you know and are known, whether you listened and are listened to, and whether your leadership will move or stagnate.

A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.”
Grace Murray Hopper, mathematician and computer pioneer

Hospice Deprescribing and Goals-of-Care Discussions

Shaida Talebreza, MD HMDC

Editor’s note: In the fall 2014 Quarterly Clinical Pearls Article “Goals-of-Care Discussions for Deprescribing,” Dr. Talebreza shares ways (and even a sample script) for healthcare providers to engage patients in decision making regarding medication deprescribing. The following is a tool, created by Dr. Talebreza, to help hospice professionals to determine the category of the hospice medication and to initiate a conversion with the patient and his or her family about the topic. Additionally, Dr. Talebreza has provided further information regarding recent CMS guidance. How have you approached this situation or what questions might you have? We welcome you to leave your comments below.

On March 10, 2014, CMS issued guidance to the hospice community and Medicare Part D Sponsors on Part D payment for drugs for beneficiaries enrolled in hospice. On July 18, 2014, CMS issued revised guidance .

Drugs Covered Under the Hospice Benefit

The hospice plan of care must include all services necessary for the palliation and management of the terminal illness and related conditions. As such, there may be some medications that were used prior to the hospice election that will continue as part of the hospice plan of care, and would be covered under the Medicare hospice benefit, if those drugs are necessary for the palliation and management of the terminal illness and related conditions (CMS, March 10, 2014).

We expect that Medicare hospice providers will continue to provide all of the medications that are reasonable and necessary for the palliation and management of a beneficiary’s terminal illness and related conditions (CMS, July 18, 2014).

Drugs That Are a Beneficiary Liability
There may be some drugs that were for the treatment of the terminal illness or related conditions prior to the hospice election that will be discontinued upon hospice election, as it has been determined by the hospice interdisciplinary group, after discussions with the hospice patient and family, that those medications may no longer be effective in the intended treatment, or may be causing additional negative symptoms in the individual. These medications would not be covered under the Medicare hospice benefit, as they would not be reasonable and necessary for the palliation of pain or symptom management. If a beneficiary still chooses to have these medications filled through his or her pharmacy, the costs of these medications would then become a beneficiary liability for payment and not covered by Part D. These medications would not be covered by Part D because their further coverage is prohibited under Medicare (CMS, July 18, 2014).

Similarly, if a beneficiary requests a drug for his or her terminal illness or related conditions that is not on the hospice formulary and the beneficiary refuses to try a formulary equivalent first; or the drug is determined by the hospice provider to be unreasonable or unnecessary for the palliation of pain or symptom management, the beneficiary may opt to assume financial responsibility for the drug. However, no payment for the drug will be available under Part D (CMS, July 18, 2014).

When a drug is determined by the hospice provider to be the beneficiary’s responsibility, Part D has no payment responsibility and payment coordination is not an issue (CMS, July 18, 2014).

Drugs Covered Under Part D for a Beneficiary Who Has Elected Hospice

For prescription drugs to be covered under Part D when the enrollee has elected hospice, the drug must be for treatment of a condition that is completely unrelated to the terminal illness or related conditions; in other words, the drug is unrelated to the terminal prognosis of the individual (CMS, March 10, 2014).

Influence Requires Empathy

By Kevin E. O’Connor, CSP

ACPE faculty member Kevin E. O’Connor, CSP, will present focused sessions on Relationship Building and Change Management at the AAHPM Leadership Forum: Ascend program, September 14-16, 2014. AAHPM Ascend is a new intensive program included in the AAHPM’s comprehensive new Leadership Forum.

“The greatest problem in communication is the assumption that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw, playwright

When we wish to influence, we need to know others in a special and unique way. Empathy requires accurate listening, but it also requires an ability to communicate your understanding.

Summarize what you think you heard and ask if you have accurately understood. This shows the participant and the rest of your audience that you take the feedback seriously and that you are open to their viewpoint.

Influence Means Action
You must take action on what others are unwilling or too fearful to consider at any given time. Influence is about having a vision and a plan that is so elegantly simple that others will have a “why didn’t I think of that?” experience.

In presentations, that can simply mean helping your listeners figure out how they feel about a new idea or perspective. Take a poll. Share visions. Brainstorm solutions.

Afterwards, pay attention to their verbal and nonverbal feedback. See where there is room for improvement, where there is an opportunity to smooth out sections or make areas more clear.

Influence Through Simplicity
Everyone always has at least two major concerns as they enter meetings or presentations: “What is this about and what does it have to do with me?” Answer those questions, and you will increase your influence.

  • Steer clear of surprises.
  • Use less jargon. Don’t create confusion by using less than clear language.
  • Avoid acronyms. State the words until you know your audience understands what the acronym letters stand for.
  • Use smart analogies that make sense, not worn out clichés that no longer connect with the listener.

Finish Strong
When you conclude a presentation, you need to reach inside other people and encourage them to be innovative and to try new things: “what would happen if we did this?” Always remain open enough to change your mind to welcome new ideas.