Industry Recognizing Importance of Inpatient Hospice Units

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Karen Utterback By Karen Utterback 
Former Vice President, Product Marketing and Strategy, McKesson (Retired)

Hospice Agency Inpatient Care

Not even the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization keeps statistics, but anecdotal evidence indicates that the number of inpatient hospice beds is on the rise nationally.

“Our leaders attend NHPCO meetings, and the clinical staff goes to (American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine) events, and it seems like every hospice official we visit with either has an inpatient unit or is in the process of building one,” says Catherine Grubbs, director of administration at Circle of Life Hospice.

The Springdale, Ark.-based agency serves just under 200 patients. The hospice has a 24-bed unit in Springdale that opened in 2005. It also has eight temporary beds in a nearby Bentonville assisted living facility while it builds a 24-bed unit there that’s expected to open in 2013. Grubbs says the inpatient units are spacious to allow for visiting relatives, and some are pet-friendly.

NHPCO surveys members only on whether hospice agencies have an inpatient unit, not the number of beds or whether they’re used as inpatient, respite or some combination. The percentage of those having such units remained unchanged between 2009 and 2010 surveys at 22 percent.

Most people who are dying prefer to stay at home, but that’s not always possible. Sometimes patients need higher acuity care than they can receive in the home. At other times, family caregivers need a break from the responsibilities of caring for a loved one so they can rest or take a vacation.

Grubbs and other participants in McKesson’s twice-yearly Home Care Advisory Council overwhelmingly indicated that their organizations either had inpatient hospice units or were in the planning or building stages to open one.

Four in 10 Medicare beneficiaries use hospice services before they die—1.1 million Medicare patients a year. Hospice has moved into the mainstream of care services, and your agency should look to expand into inpatient services if it makes sense in your area.

I’m curious about how many of you are looking to expand your services to include an inpatient unit or have already had success with a unit you’ve opened. Let me know your thoughts.

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