Palliative Care Benefit Delivers Increased Satisfaction And Better Outcomes For Patients

posted by Dr. Bruce C. Smith

on April 25, 2016

The time to redefine palliative care is now. By 2029, there will be more than 71 million Americans age 65 or older and with that a more consumer-centric, personalized approach to palliative care is essential. Getting to a place where people are utilizing palliative care is a challenge Regence is looking to solve.

Today, approximately 90 million Americans have a serious long-term illness, and this number is expected to more than double in the next 25 years. In our complex health care system the traditional models for palliative care are fragmented and difficult to navigate for patients and their families. Regence believes this is an opportunity to redefine how this important benefit is designed and delivered.

One year ago, Regence updated its health policies across every line of business to include the first-of-its-kind palliative care support benefit. This covers approximately 1.7 million Regence members across Oregon, Idaho, Utah, and Washington state. We believe that patients want to talk about their health care options and express their wishes relative to the care they receive, and we are proud that this benefit helps facilitate that. For example, The Conversation Project reports that 90 percent of Americans think it’s important to have an advanced care planning conversation about their wishes for end-of-life, yet only 30 percent actually pursue or complete these conversations.

In honor of National Healthcare Decisions Day on April 16, Regence released initial findings from the first year of offering its comprehensive palliative benefit. These findings highlight how critical palliative care is and the increasing consumer demand for personalized care support when facing a chronic illness.

Findings include:

  • Customer demand and utilization: Opened nearly 1,300 cases – double the first year’s target projection
  • Customer satisfaction: Achieved a 94 percent satisfaction score from members – outperforming the target by 14 percent
  • Improved outcomes for patients: Reduced hospital readmissions from 30 percent to 25 percent

This approach ensures a patient’s physical, social, and spiritual needs are at the center of a care delivery plan. This benefit covers not only the patient but caregivers and family member support — regardless of whether they are a Regence member or not.

By focusing efforts on normalizing the conversation around chronic illness and end of life, Regence is raising awareness for palliative care. There is now tangible evidence that perception is changing and we’re at a transformative moment in time as we look to ensure patients have a better experience across the care continuum.

Bruce C. Smith, M.D., is Executive Medical Director, Regence BlueShield, Washington.

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