Now is the Time: Partnering with Hospital and Health System Leadership to Improve Access to Palliative Care

By Jay Bhatt, DO, MPH, MPA, FACP
President and Chief Executive Officer, HRET
Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, American Hospital Association

If you attended the CAPC National Seminar, you heard me issue a challenge to palliative care leaders across the country: Schedule time to talk with an individual of influence in your organization with the goal of identifying one action that could improve access to palliative care.

Why This Challenge? Why Now? And Why is it Coming From Me?

As senior vice president and chief medical officer of the American Hospital Association (AHA), I participate in a national conversation with patients and families, clinical leaders, hospital and health system executives, boards of trustees, and health policymakers. The AHA represents many of the people you may meet with if you respond to this challenge – and now is the right time to approach them.

In my recent CAPC blog post, I made the statement: “Palliative care is a ‘must have’ for modern hospitals.” This is absolutely true. The health ecosystem needs to consider palliative care beyond end-of-life care and toward helping individuals achieve optimal health wherever they are in the health continuum. As health systems move toward value – and they are moving – improving care quality and cost effectiveness in the care of patients with serious illnesses is non-negotiable.

The data on the quality and cost effectiveness of palliative care are clear. The AHA believes that high-quality, cross-continuum palliative care services are a critical part of the solution for health systems as they make the transformation toward value. For this reason, the AHA has made it a priority to support our members in improving access to palliative care for our country’s sickest patients and for those struggling with planning care goals that help them achieve health.

For those of you working in the field of palliative care, this message is not news. But recent policy and health care payment innovation are helping to give it voice (The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ decision to expand Medicare Advantage supplemental benefits to include home-based palliative care, and the CHRONIC Care Act, are just two recent examples). Your leadership will be taking note of these developments.

Taking Action

Recently, I tweeted about #WhyPalMatters to me. This is just the beginning. The AHA is committed to telling our audience of hospital and health system leaders that palliative care is a high-value proposition. Over the coming year, we will help connect the dots back to palliative care’s impact on the quality of care delivered and patient satisfaction.

Knowing that there has never been a better time, and that your leadership is hearing from the AHA about palliative care, I issue my challenge once again: Schedule time to talk with an individual of influence in your organization, with the goal of identifying one action that could improve access to palliative care.

Depending on your organization, your goal for the meeting may be to launch a new palliative care program, or to strengthen collaboration between palliative care and your emergency department, or to expand your services into community settings.

How to Have the Conversation

During my keynote at Seminar, I asked the audience to interact with my presentation, by texting a question that they have for health care leaders. As the screen populated with responses from attendees, I was struck by how many palliative care leaders asked the question, “How can I help you achieve your goals?” The conversation needs to originate from a desire of shared understanding and learning, as well as empathy and compassion.

This capacity to communicate with empathy – asking leadership what keeps them up at night, and then translating back to how palliative care can help – will serve the palliative care field well. CAPC’s tools for conducting a needs assessment for inpatient and community-based services are a great resource to guide your conversations:

In Conclusion

Once you’ve had your meeting, tell us how it went. Leave your stories in the comments section of this blog post to share what you are doing as a leader to expand access to palliative care for your patients.

We know what to do. Now we must accelerate what we do. Let’s follow through so that palliative care can help advance health care in America.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.