Are You Caring for Someone That is Seriously Ill? They May Benefit From a New Approach to Palliative Care

Doctor Taking Pulse Of Senior Male Patient In Bed At Home

Recently Univera Healthcare and the hospice organizations that serve Western New York’s eight counties announced a two-year palliative care pilot program to improve the quality of life for patients who have serious chronic illnesses. The goal is to get patients referred to palliative care sooner than they typically are, to provide that care in a setting they most prefer‒their own home, and to have that care delivered by an interdisciplinary team working in close collaboration with the referring physician.

The program, which began in December 2015, is available at no additional cost to Univera Healthcare members enrolled in the health insurer’s commercial and Medicare Advantage plans. Richard Vienne, D.O., Univera Healthcare vice president and chief medical officer, who spearheaded the program, says, “This innovative approach to palliative care came about when all of the regions hospice organizations accepted our invitation to gather around one table to re-think what we do and how we do it.”

Univera’s commercial and Medicare Advantage members who are eligible for the palliative care pilot are those who have serious illnesses, are experiencing significant pain and symptoms, functional and/or cognitive impairment, frailty, or are in need of complex care coordination. Patients are identified through physician or home care agency referrals, as well as by Univera’s case management team.

Participating hospice organizations include:

  • Home Connections (Erie County)
  • Pathways Palliative Care (Niagara County)
  • Chautauqua Palliative Care (Chautauqua County)
  • Hospice of Orleans, Inc. (Orleans County)
  • HomeCare & Hospice—Comfort Partners (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Genesee, and Wyoming counties)

Univera’s palliative care pilot program is designed to deliver interdisciplinary team-based care in close collaboration with the referring physician. The team includes a:

  • Physician medical director trained in palliative care and hospice
  • Palliative care trained RN or LPN coordinator
  • Palliative care trained social worker
  • Palliative care chaplain

Success of the pilot will be determined by carefully tracking outcomes including:

  • Emergency Department visit rates
  • Acute inpatient admission rates and length of stay
  • Patient/caregiver and referring clinician satisfaction surveys
  • Pharmacy utilization and cost
  • Outpatient utilization and cost

“Our hope is that any success we can demonstrate with our members and our pilot program will ultimately transform the administration of palliative care for all Western New Yorkers,” said Vienne.

To learn more about this new approach to palliative care and you and your loved one’s ability to benefit from this new program, contact any of the hospice organizations listed above.