Palliative Care: Good Business and the Right Thing to Do

Debra Shute, April 13, 2017

AMGA presenters shared advice on finding the right candidates for palliative care, at the right time, for the right reasons.

In a value-based environment, palliative care programs can translate to substantial savings. A recent study published in the Journal of Palliative Medicine calculated the savings derived from a home-based palliative care program (HBPC) at $12,000 per patient during the final three months of life compared to patients receiving usual care.

But when it comes to marketing this extra layer of support to patients or referring physicians, it's important not to overemphasize the financial benefits, says Dana Lustbader, MD, chair of the department of palliative care for ProHEALTH in New York.

She co-authored the study and spoke about medical group models for palliative care at the American Medical Group Association's 2017 Annual Conference, in Grapevine, Texas, March 22 – 25.

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"We have a branding problem with the word palliative," she said. "Most of the public doesn't know what advanced illness is, either. They do have an understanding of what it means to be seriously ill or have a serious illness, and they like having an extra layer of support."

For that reason, palliative care providers typically explain to patients that they provide supportive care, and rarely if ever use the term palliative care. "Most of the patients we serve just know that their nurse Mary or social worker Lisa are fantastic," Lustbader said.

Debra Shute

Debra Shute is the Senior Physicians Editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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