Hospice and Palliative Medicine

Another Way to Advocate for Patients

by Emily Muse, AAHPM Communities Manager

I am a planner. I create lists, diagrams, and spreadsheets for almost everything. I even use a planning rubric when packing for weekend trips. Obviously, I began my preparation for the 2011 AAHPM Washington DC “Capitol Hill Fly In” by researching my congressional representatives and senators. I wanted to learn as much as possible about the people I would be meeting and were “representing” me in D.C. A lot of this investigation was done just by entering my zip code in the AAHPM Legislative Action Center. (http://www.capwiz.com/aahpm/home/)

At a glance I was able to discover all the committees that my senators and my congressional representative served on. How they had voted on specific legislation and issues and I read and reread all the proposed legislation that would affect AAHPM members. It was wonderful. After accessing their office addresses I plotted out where they were all located within the map of Capitol Hill.

I was ready, or so I thought.

What I was not prepared for was the knowledge, dedication and tenacity of our AAHPM members. It did not surprise me, it wowed me. Not only had our members prepared for this visit, they had been advocating and championing Hospice and Palliative in ways I had never thought about. One member encourages staff to contact elected officials regularly about HPM issues. Another invited his representative to visit his program and learn firsthand what Palliative Medicine provides for constituents. All of our members had brought with them anecdotes of patients achieving successful pain and symptom management, making decisions about their care that made sense for themselves and their families and utilizing allocated resources appropriately due to team based care and excellent communication among providers. And what was even more impressive, Senators, Representatives and Staffers all listened. They asked questions and posed some opposition, but they were open to learn more. I hope some of those members who participated in this year’s DC Fly In will write about their individual experiences. I think all of the participants were amazing, even one who commented that this was “just another way we advocate for our patients”.

How Do You Define Palliative Care?

While reading this article from the Philadelphia Inquirer, AAHPM staff came across this definition:

Palliative care, which focuses on treating the symptoms of diseases either fatal or curable, has become increasingly common in U.S. hospitals.

What are you thoughts? How do YOU define palliative care?

Patients or Healthcare Consumers? A tipping point in Hospice & Palliative Medicine

by AAHPM President Ronald J. Crossno, MD

Do we take care of patients or do we partner with educated consumers who are knowledgeable about healthcare economics? The answer is clearly some of both, depending on the individual in front of us, but a new report from the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions suggests the prospect of the engaged consumer is increasing. Two findings of this study may also indicate that US consumer attitudes may be changing in a way that may allow for systematic healthcare cost savings.

Deloitte surveyed almost 16,000 healthcare consumers in 12 countries, all with variously developed healthcare systems that often garner similar consumer responses despite their differences. One of those differences is how much of the country’s GDP is spent on healthcare, ranging from a low of 4.7% in China, to an average of 10-11% for most, to a high of 17.6% for the US. Per-capita spending in the US stands out at over $8,000, with no other country surpassing $5,000. However, in many other areas, there was considerable uniformity in answers. Most consumers believe themselves to be in “excellent” or “very good” health, despite roughly half of consumers saying they have been diagnosed with one or more chronic conditions. Data indicates that consumers are increasingly attuned to and knowledgeable about healthcare, in general.

Nevertheless, consumers in all countries rated their understanding of their country’s healthcare system as low and satisfaction with their current system also generally ranked low. Many indicated wasted spending as a major issue, with the most common cause of waste being identified as “redundant paperwork in the system.”

However, it is at this point that the US has another standout point. A common cause of waste identified by 35% of US consumers was: “At the end of life, extreme measures taken to extend life for a short period of time instead of making the person comfortable with things such as pain relief and palliative care.”

So the US spends considerably more than any other nation on healthcare, but consumers identify extreme measures at end-of-life as wasteful. Note that these are consumers – not policy-makers or healthcare professionals. Are these two items really related? Perhaps, though this study isn’t designed to answer that question.

To me, these findings suggest that there is a large group of Americans who innately understand the type of message that Hospice & Palliative Medicine provides – that individualized goal-setting to meet the specific wishes of individuals and their families at the time of life-threatening and serious illness provides the treatments wanted while resulting in overall cost savings. Either we’ve been successful in getting our message out or consumers figured this out on their own.

Both represent success, since all major movements require significant grassroots support in order to garner widespread institutional and/or governmental support for funding and full implementation. It appears that we may be crossing the tipping point for such support. Despite the economy (or perhaps because of it), HPM’s message is being heard. Let’s keep getting it out there!

Pacific Northwest Ahead of the Curve in End-of-Life Care. Or Is It?

by Joanna Fief

I’ve been hearing about the need for improved end-of-life care since I was a kid. My mom was a hospice nurse for many years and always talked about the importance of broader and earlier access to palliative care for patients and their families.

I never dreamed my work would overlap with hers, but for the past few years I’ve been working with The Regence Foundation, a grantmaking organization in the Pacific Northwest focused on increasing awareness and improving access to palliative care. Mom is proud of me, and I feel very lucky to work in a part of the country that is so ahead of the curve when it comes to end-of-life care.

Or is it?

Last month, The Regence Foundation partnered with National Journal, a media organization in Washington D.C., to poll people in the Pacific Northwest on their attitudes toward end-of-life care and how they compare with the rest of the country.

My gut feeling was confirmed. People here are generally more aware of and open to discussing end-of-life care options than other Americans. However, the poll also showed that, just like the rest of the nation, many still aren’t familiar with the term “palliative care.” Plus, about half said that information about palliative care is “available, but only if you know where to look or who to ask.” The Regence Foundation wants to change that.

For me, the key takeaway is that, regardless of geography, when people know what palliative care is, they want it, and I love that part of my job is to help them know what it is and how to access it.

Joanna Fief works at The Regence Group, a total health solutions company. The company’s foundation is called The Regence Foundation, which is working to improve access to palliative care.

AAHPM Physician Compensation Survey Reveals Diversity in Pay, High Job Satisfaction

Charles V. (Chuck) Wellman, MD FAAHPM, is Chief Medical Director of Hospice of the Western Reserve in Cleveland, OH, and chair of AAHPM’s Leadership and Workforce Strategic Coordinating Committee

It is with great pleasure that we can finally announce the availability of the AAHPM Physician Compensation and Benefits Survey Report. Two years ago a poll of AAHPM’s members indicated a strong interest in such a survey. Earlier surveys, while helpful, suffered from a low rate of participation and from a lack of depth and refinement in the data. Consequently, the Academy’s Board of Directors charged the Business Practice Task Force to select a vendor who could help to design and implement such a survey. As a co-chair of the Task Force at the time and as current chair of our Leadership and Workforce Strategic Coordinating Committee, I can attest to the many hours that Task Force members spent on this process and the challenges we faced in dealing with the complexity and variability in our field.

The complexity is and will continue to be a challenge. HPM practitioners come from many different backgrounds. We work fulltime and part-time. We work for hospices, hospitals, the Veterans Administration, or as independent practitioners. Some of us are on salary while others have productivity-based compensation. We measure productivity in different ways. Some of us are in academic settings, and many of us have administrative, research, and teaching responsibilities. We have great variability in titles with no consistent agreement on chief medical officer, medical director, associate medical director, and team physician. As you might imagine, each iteration of the survey resulted in further discussion, and we realized a constant tension between designing a thorough, comprehensive survey versus a survey that might be too complex or time-consuming. In the end we find ourselves very pleased and grateful that nearly 800 of us were willing to complete this survey.

One will find that there is a wealth of data in this survey. It tells us a lot about who we are in this relatively young field. It will help to establish ranges of benefits and compensation, which will be increasingly important as we strive to attract residents and mid-career physicians to our field. The survey will give us greater flexibility in negotiating work hours, time off, productivity expectations, and CME benefits. There were also questions about job satisfaction, and it is exciting and gratifying to know 96% of us are satisfied or very satisfied with our profession and 93% of us are likely or very likely to recommend a career in HPM.

The survey will continue to be a work in progress. As we review the current survey results, it is expected that additional questions will arise, and there will be recommendations on how to further refine the survey questions. The unique and evolving arrangements in our field will challenge our future revisions, but we invite your feedback and encourage dialogue on how we can make future surveys more helpful and accurate. Comments can also be sent to the Academy at info@aahpm.org, (Subject: Comp Survey Feedback.) It is an exciting start.

Palliative Care for Cancer Patients in Treatment

by Porter Storey, MD, AAHPM Executive Vice President

Palliative care teams should be consulted more often for cancer patients in active treatment.

I know, I am “preaching to the choir” on this blog, but it may be important how we explain this to our various “stakeholders.”

The Public – Palliative care can help align patient wishes with their treatments and make sure patients and families are comfortable and supported.

Patients – Palliative care can help with symptom management, care coordination, psychosocial support so that you can continue your treatment and continue to do so after it is completed.

Hospice Programs – Palliative care can provide support before they qualify for hospice and refer patients to hospices sooner, for longer lengths of stay.

Payors and Program Administrators – Palliative care consultations can reduce costs and improve quality for the sickest (and most expensive) patients we care for. It can reduce hospital readmissions and save thousands of dollars per hospitalized patients (for the latest of many articles see Nelson C, et al. Inpatient Palliative Care Consults and the Probability of Hospital Readmission. Permanente J. 2011, 15(2):48-51.)

Referring Oncologists – Palliative care can act as an extension of the oncology care team so oncologists can focus on giving treatment. And as Tom Smith and Bruce Hilner argue in the May 26 NEJM, “bend the cost curve” so that we can afford to offer expensive new treatments to patients who can benefit from them (N Engl J Med 2011; 364:2060-2065).

Let’s not apply the wrong argument to the wrong class of stakeholders.

What do we say to the politicians?

Join the discussion when AAHPM offers the webinar “Changing the Mindset: Integrating Palliative Care into Cancer Treatment” lead by Tom Smith on Tuesday July 14 at 3pm ET.

Update from the AMA 2011 Annual Meeting

by Chad D. Kollas, MD, FACP, FCLM, FAAHPM – AAHPM Delegate to the AMA

While in Chicago from June 18-20 to represent the Academy at the Annual Meeting of the American Medical Association House of Delegates, my colleague Dennis Pacl, MD FAAP FACP – AAHPM’s alternate delegate – and I took in a show one night…. We saw Steve Martin and Martin Short at the historic Chicago Theater in what was billed as “A Very Stupid Conversation.” Now, I know that some question the continuing relevance of the AMA, but I would assure all AAHPM members that our time spent at the AMA Annual Meeting was anything but stupid. In fact, I am pleased to say that this gathering of physicians representing state and specialty medical societies featured some very thoughtful conversations, many that impact the future of medicine and a number that are key to our field.

I was honored to have been elected in November to chair the AMA’s Pain and Palliative Medicine Specialty Section Council (PPMSSC). As representatives of nine diverse specialties, the PPMSSC reviews the reports and resolutions before the House with implications for the pain and palliative medicine communities and decide where to provide testimony and offer joint endorsement or opposition. One resolution, sponsored by the Iowa delegation, called for a national dialogue by interested parties on end-of-life (EOL) counseling. AAHPM testified in favor of the resolution and identified the Academy and PPMSSC as interested in serving as resources in the endeavor. The AMA House of Delegates adopted the resolution as new AMA policy, and we’ll provide timely updates on the effort. Another resolution, sponsored by the American Thoracic Society, led to a recommendation that the “AMA encourage the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to designate voluntary discussions about end-of-life care as covered services in the 2012 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule.” These efforts – which harmonize with the Academy’s policy priorities – build upon an opinion by the AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs approved by the AMA House in November 2010, which encouraged physicians to participate in advance care planning.

The AMA House also passed a resolution that called for reform of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Although the PPACA contained many directives consistent with AMA policy, such as expanding health insurance coverage for Americans, it also contained provisions considered undesirable or controversial. The AMA specifically called for repeal of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), enactment of comprehensive medical liability reform, studying further the Medicare Cost/Quality index and expanding the use of health savings accounts (HSAs). Support for individual responsibility for health insurance to cover the uninsured was also reaffirmed read more.

The House also accepted a report from CEJA regarding ethics rules guiding industry support for continuing medical education (CME). A representative from the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) testified that the new ethics rules were consistent with current ACCME standards. AAHPM already conforms to both the ACCME standards and the new AMA standards, and also signed on to the Council of Medical Specialty Societies’ Code for Interactions with Companies.

Finally, some issues of interest to palliative care physicians were referred for further study by the AMA. The Florida Delegation sponsored a resolution asking the AMA to study the issue of national or regional drug shortages, a problem that has profoundly affected palliative care specialists over the last several years. Additionally, AAHPM supported studying the content of patient navigators programs to enhance their consistency. The AAHPM Delegation to the AMA will make the findings of the reports available to Academy members when that information becomes available.

Beyond the annual meeting, our collaboration with members of the PPMSSC continues. This summer, we’ll develop comments on a resolution addressing the right of access to medication for pain relief that will be presented later this year at the World Medical Association meeting. In the meantime, if there are issues that you believe we should take to the “House of Medicine,” I welcome your thoughts. I also hope that if you’re not an AMA member, you will consider joining? (be sure to specify HPM as your specialty if you do) – AAHPM’s representation and participation is dependent on having a sufficient number of Academy members among the AMA’s ranks.

Eager Medical Students Learn about Palliative Medicine

by Emily Muse, AAHPM Manager, Communities and Programs

Saturday was the opening of the American Medical Association House of Delegates Annual Meeting 2011. One of the featured events was the eighth annual AMA-MSS Medical Specialty Showcase.
The American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine was invited to exhibit at this event and took the opportunity to educate current medical students about the field of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.

Eager medical students visited booths exploring what options may be available to them. In narrowing down these career directions they asked a lot of questions, “Is HPM strictly for Family Medicine Residents ?”, “How long is a Fellowship in HPM? ”, “Can I practice HPM if I am a pediatrician?” , “What are the boards that sponsor this subspeciality” and “How many HPM fellowship programs are there?”. By the halfway point of the day I was “questioned out”! It was then that a young gentleman approached the booth. Before I could speak, he immediately introduced himself and said
“My Dad is a member of your organization, he just took the certification exam, I felt like I needed to stop by. I am not sure this is the right career path for me, but I know what a difference Palliative Care makes.”
It was so sincere and genuine, I almost asked if he would like to stay and work at the booth for the rest of the allotted time! While he moved on through the crowd investigating other medical specialties and subspecialties I was reminded that Hospice and Palliative Care is much more than the answers to the basic questions about fellowship. It is a philosophy of care that is driven by clinicians committed to patients as they navigate life limiting or life challenging conditions.

And the best answer is…

by Bruce Chamberlain, MD and Julie Bruno, MSW, AAHPM Director of Education

You’ll recall the case of Mary Jane initially introduced in the May 26 AAHPM e-News.

Mary Jane was on service with the diagnosis of adult failure to thrive. She fell and was hospitalized with a fractured trochanter. Her pain was poorly controlled but she was scheduled to be discharged to home. Unfortunately, her family was unavailable to receive her till later in the week. You recommend…

1. Respite Care

2. GIP at a local skilled nursing facility

3. Provide continuous care

4. None-of-the-above: it’s the patient/family’s responsibility

The “correct” answer provided was respite, but, as noted by a number of you, there is an important factor that makes GIP a better answer: Pain was uncontrolled. Management of uncontrolled pain is a skilled need that would qualify the patient for GIP care. The duration of the GIP admission will be limited by how long it takes to manage the pain not the return of the family, so if, when the pain is managed, the family has not yet returned, then respite would be the best transition option. CMS has clarified that GIP should only be used based on the patient condition and should not be used due to caregiver “breakdown”. (CMS Quarterly Provider Update April 2007, http://www.cms.hhs.gov/quarterlyproviderupdates/downloads/cms1539p.pdf)

Continuous care could also be a reasonable choice, the requirement for skilled care is the same and it is a good option for a patient who really does not want to be in a facility. Documentation is more rigorous, reimbursement can be problematic and staffing can, at times be a challenge for some agencies, so most would elect to pursue the GIP option.

Key Points:

1. Respite is for the benefit of the family and is generally a planned event, it is also appropriate to use in cases of caregiver breakdown when there is not a skilled care need requirement for the patient.

2. GIP is to provide skilled care for the patient that cannot be provided in the home. Documentation for GIP based on pain must include:

  • Frequent evaluation
  • Frequent medication adjustment
  • Aggressive interventions to control the pain

AAHPM Staff Gets Firsthand Look at Palliative Medicine

by Christina Rowe, AAHPM Account Coordinator

Though I have previous experience with medical associations prior to joining the AAHPM staff, most of my experience with Hospice and Palliative Care was in a personal capacity. For the past few years as we worked with my father’s physicians to keep him comfortable, our goal was to give him the best quality of life with the time he had remaining. From the patient side you’re often too worried about if you’re making the right decisions, or spending your time with your loved one in the best way possible, rather than to step back and think about where the care is coming from or the training the physicians completed to bring your loved one quality care. So recently when another staff member and I were given a special opportunity to visit AAHPM member Dr. Stacie Levine at University of Chicago Medical Center, it was from a new vantage point for me. Throughout the day we were also able to speak with Dr. William Dale, Chief of the section of Geriatrics and Palliative Care, and Dr. Monica Malec, Assistant Professor of Medicine and a colleague of Dr. Levine’s and to learn of their roles in geriatrics and palliative care.

In a whirlwind afternoon, Dr. Levine gave us tours of the various practice settings where fellows of the University of Chicago palliative care program complete rotations. We were able to visit the hospital, the oncology clinic, a long-term care location, and the in-patient hospice they work with. The program demonstrated the many different facets that create the fine balance of palliative care.

The fellowship program makes an effort to have the fellow follow patients through each new shift in care, from hospital visits, to long term care, through hospice care. Though there are clear challenges of following a patient through many changes while balancing the fellowship program, Dr. Levine pointed out the importance of participating in the full care of the patient when possible. Though the difficulties (funding, staff time, etc) of setting up a fellowship program were clear, it was even clearer that the education and experience it provides is priceless.

One of the strongest impressions made on me came when we had been discussing how their hospice and palliative care physicians and program interacts with other specialties within the hospital, such as Oncology. While walking through the oncology clinic, Dr. Levine and Dr. Malec were explaining the importance of a palliative care physician being present, when without fail one of the Oncologists saw them and said “Oh! I have a patient I would like you to see!” Just their presence triggered the thought that palliative care should be added to the patient’s treatment.

That importance of presence resonates through so much of what makes hospice and palliative care unique. Being present in learning and teaching the many aspects of hospice and palliative care, being present in interactions with other specialties as a reminder to add Palliative care to a treatment plan, being present with the patients and their families, being present in the different stages of care for a patient, and being present in AAHPM as a voice of a growing specialty.

Thank you to Dr. Levine, Dr. Dale, Dr. Malec, and others who gave us a wonderful glimpse of their days and the University of Chicago’s program!