Health care reform requires providers to improve efficiency and stewardship of resources to address rising operational costs and declining reimbursements. Add to that the need to ensure maximum quality and value for those benefiting from their services.
Regionally, major hospital systems have focused on consolidation. However, these same policy and economic issues impact regional nonprofit hospice organizations, which provide care for some of the most vulnerable members of our community: those coping with the advanced stages of a chronic illness and their families.
Here’s why. The growth in the proportion of older adults is unprecedented in the history of the U.S. Longer life spans and aging baby boomers will combine to double the population of Americans aged 65 years or older during the next 25 years.
In our state and region, the projections are even more acute. Ohio currently has the seventh largest population of mature adults in the country.
To meet the challenges presented by these projections in this region, the merger between Hospice of the Western Reserve and HMC Hospice of Medina County — completed in September — provides a framework and will allow us to not only continue to serve our local communities, but to improve efficiency, enhance access to care and expand the scope of services available in the region.
The merger makes sense on many different levels. Aligning and streamlining operations will result in a stronger, more nimble and cost-effective organization, ensuring continued growth and responsiveness to community needs.
Each agency has added programs and services in response to community needs. Many of the programs complement each other. Patients, families and local communities will benefit from an enhanced range of assets and services:
- The region’s largest team of certified hospice and palliative care (symptom management) professionals.
- Three hospice house care centers providing short-term, specialized symptom control and comprehensive support in the final days of life.
- Home health care and private-pay services.
- Palliative care for those with earlier-stage chronic disease.
- A specialized pediatric palliative care team.
- A combined force of more than 3,350 dedicated volunteers.
- One of the nation’s most comprehensive grief support programs, available to the community as well as patients’ families.
- A Hospice Institute providing fellowships, training and continuing education credits to Northern Ohio health care professionals, clinical research and an award-winning end-of-life library.
- An advanced illness home care program in partnership with insurance providers to help those with earlier-stage chronic illness maintain independence and reduce hospitalizations.
Research demonstrates the beneficial impact of hospice and palliative care services on quality of life, survival, family caregiver outcomes and symptom burden. Working together toward these goals, we are stronger together, and we are well-equipped to meet the challenges of population trends and health care reform far into the future.
William E. Finn is CEO of Hospice of the Western Reserve, which provides palliative end-of-life care, caregiver support, and bereavement services throughout Northern Ohio. He has served as CEO since February 2011 and has been in the field of hospice and palliative care for 28 years.