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Care Coordination, Quality Data Crucial to Hospice Referral Growth

Care Coordination, Quality Data Crucial to Hospice Referral Growth

Source: By Holly Vossel, Hospice News | March 18, 2024

Hospices saw census volumes drop during the COVID-19 public health emergency as facilities nationwide restricted access to patients amid mandated state closures. Providers often turned to electronic communications to reach patients in facility- and community-based settings alike.

Adaptability has been among the keys to coping with the pandemic’s lingering punches in referral streams, according to Craig Dresang, CEO of California-based YoloCares. As end-of-life care received a spotlight during a global pandemic, the historical viewpoints around hospice care delivery have been undergoing a “fundamental shift,” Dresang said.

“This is really an exciting time for our industry,” Dresang said during the Hospice News 2024 Outlook Webinar. “There were a lot of good changes that emerged out of COVID that are going to serve us well into the future. As challenging as it was, the residue is largely positive. It thickened our skin, made us a little more scrappy and gave us new ideas about how we can care for our patients and families.”

Rising utilization of virtual communication during the COVID outbreak have helped illuminate different approaches to care collaboration and ways to more effectively reach referrals further upstream, Dresang indicated.

YoloCares offers hospice, supportive and palliative care, adult day services and advance care planning, among other programs. The organization has seen a growing need to engage patients further upstream, according to Dresang. YoloCares’ palliative care program has swelled in recent years, with impacts trickling into end-of-life care services as well, he indicated

Quality will be a significant driver of patient census, Dresang stated, and quality depends on communication.

“Coming out of COVID, because staff were not as present in the office and because visits oftentimes looked different, especially on the palliative care side of the house for patients, they weren’t always in person,” Dresang told Hospice News. “That really caused us as an organization to focus on effective communication, both with each other and with our patients and families. Now it’s part of our mantra that good care is directly linked to good communication.”

Quality will also be crucial when it comes to negotiating with payers in a value-based environment, according to Chapters Health CEO Andrew Molosky. Hospice has garnered increasing attention from payers and providers alike in the value-based space as a service that can reduce high care costs at the end of life and improve quality, two sticking points among referral sources, he indicated.

“Great growth opportunities” exist for hospices to form referral relationships with health care providers across the value-based landscape, Molosky said.

“As we look at growth opportunities, it is not [about] what is tapped or becoming prevalent today,” Molosky said during the webinar. “We’re putting intense focus on that value-based group of folks, and there’s a wide audience to whom that applies, but it’s going to be very different from traditional, transactional, showing up and trying to earn a referral and subsequently another referral. This is where you’re going to be able to get to other entities in the value-based space, primary care groups taking full, delegated risk from a payer, [accountable care organizations (ACOs)] who have said now they’re looking at total cost of care as a viable option.”

Quality data will be a cornerstone of hospice referral growth strategies across the care continuum, according to Si Luo, CEO of CareXM. Quality is at the crux of every aspect of the care continuum, Luo stated.

The ability to demonstrate consistent quality outcomes and reduced costs are universally important data pieces for referral sources across the continuum, he said.

“No matter which segment of the continuum you start with, it seems to reside on focus on quality, specifically the proven ability to prevent complications that can result in higher cost utilization, so that we can turn hospice from a cost center into some of the value delivery center as well,” Luo told Hospice News during the webinar. “Those are very interesting subjects that are coming up across the health care organizations that we deal with so far.”


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