Patients with advanced illnesses more than doubled their use of hospice care when a major national health plan made hospice care more readily accessible, according to the results of a comparative study published in Journal of Palliative Medicine, a peer-reviewed publication from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
In contrast with many insurers that limit access to hospice care, national healthcare insurer Aetna (Hartford, CT) studied a trial of expanded insurance benefits for hospice care and added nurse case managers who provided information to patients and their families. The result was a dramatic increase in both overall hospice use and the mean number of days in hospice care. This study must be evaluated in the light of compelling research data over the past decade that shows hospice care provides better care than standard care for patients near the end of life. The percent of patients referred for hospice care and the number of days in hospice care are nationally accepted measures of quality health care.
Claire M. Spettell from Aetna and colleagues conclude that more liberal hospice insurance benefits and the addition of comprehensive case management to a health plan can help lead to better health care for patients with advanced illnesses. The authors document about a 70% increase in hospice use in the article entitled "A Comprehensive Case Management Program to Improve Palliative Care."
"The scientific data has been clear for many years; hospice care for the last months of life is the best care during that period. It's delightful that national health insurers are investigating how to translate that science into better care for those they insure," says Charles F. von Gunten, MD, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Palliative Medicine, and Provost, Institute for Palliative Medicine at San Diego Hospice.
Journal of Palliative Medicine is the official journal of the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) and an official journal of the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association (HPNA). The article is available free online at http://www.liebertpub.com/jpm
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