Hospice care and palliative care programs have been some of the fastest-growing services in the healthcare industry within the last decade, with almost three-quarters of U.S. hospitals offering hospice care programs.
Caring for patients with advanced illness is a difficult calling, especially for the front-line caregivers who assist patients every day. There are many hurdles to overcome when running a hospice program, including making sure the patients and their families get exactly what they need and have access to the level of care and comfort they need at any given time.
Ensuring there are enough palliative and hospice care specialists on staff only scratches the surface of what it takes to meet patient experience expectations. Unlike other healthcare fields, there has to be a special consideration for empathy and communication with terminally ill patients. The typical examination, diagnosing and treating processes that physicians are accustomed to will not help your program be successful
When it comes to excellence in hospice patient experience, there are three main things to remember: Coordination, communication and comfort.
Coordination of Care for Hospice Patients
Palliative care specialists are few and far between, and for many programs, having many on retainer simply isn’t an option.
To ensure you are getting the most out of your specialists, make sure they are taking care of the most complicated cases and training the rest of your caregiving staff on how to treat patients the right way. This will free them up to better take care of the patients hurting the most and figure out how to further improve patient care.
Training must go beyond the normal bounds of medical practice, as caregivers need to be able to meet a patient’s social, spiritual and medical needs. While this may seem like a risk or even a huge cost of time and resources, it’s the quickest way to ensure your patients’ needs are being met while ensuring your standards of care are being met.
In hospice and palliative care, many times a patient will have multiple types of specialists (cancer, dietitians and social or spiritual workers) working for the patient. This means it’s essential that everyone is at the same page at any given time.
Having a comprehensive program means you also have good standards in place so every potential situation is planned for ahead of time. Consistency of care is imperative for a successful program.
Improved Communication Helps the Patient Experience
Communication between physicians and caregivers isn’t the only area where relationships have to be strong. In order to improve the patient experience, your program has to be great at communicating with the patient and their families.
At the heart of hospice care is the deep desire to help patients during the most trying times of their lives. That means taking the time and effort to better understand their needs, and deliverer a level of empathy that most areas of healthcare aren’t used to.
Listening to the patient, and their loved ones caring for them, is by far the most important behavior that your team should focus on. While caregivers are great at diagnosing and knowing how to help patients in pain, they don’t always take the time to listen.
Pay Attention to Patient Comfort and Feedback from Loved Ones
Unlike most service lines, hospice care patient satisfaction is measured very differently than most clinical outcomes. When evaluating your program, pay attention to not only the patient, but to family members and loved ones as well.
Here are some key metrics to focus on when evaluating the success of your hospice care program:
- Feedback from families and loved ones
- Hospital mortality rates
- Time from admission to palliative care delivery
- Variety of services and specialists
When it comes to choosing a hospice care program, families and loved ones look for programs with a reputation for meeting the highest standards of patient-centric care and will ensure a peaceful and dignified passing for the patient. Almost every program has the same services, so you have to set yourself apart by providing the ultimate level of comfort for your patient and their loved ones.
One way to do this is to look at online reviews.
What people say online about your hospice care program can greatly impact which facilities advanced illness patients seek out. Take patient care analytics and family feedback seriously and look for ways to improve your service.
Remember, there is no form of care more personal and meaningful than hospice and palliative care for the patient. Developing a positive reputation is imperative to growing the program.
Having a good reputation online can help you:
- Improve your local search engine optimization (SEO)
- Discover areas where you can improve the quality of care
- Open your services to deliver care to more patients in need
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