Despite the growing need for palliative care services, only 10% of programs are operated by home health agencies.
That’s according to a recent report from the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC), a New York-based nonprofit organization. In order to better understand the current palliative care landscape outside of hospitals and acute settings, CAPC conducted a three-year survey that aimed to identify community-based care programs across the U.S.
Typically, palliative care services provide specialized treatment focused on relieving symptoms, often for patients with serious illnesses. Palliative care is not the same as hospice care — a common misconception among health care organizations and patients alike.
Myths and misunderstandings frequently mean not everyone has access to palliative care services.
Overall, 60% of people who would benefit from palliative care don’t receive services, according to a recent report from the New England Journal of Medicine’s Catalyst Insights Council.
But the benefits of community-based palliative care are clear: CAPC researchers note that community-based palliative care lowers hospital and emergency department visits, acute care costs and improves overall survival outcomes.
Given the growing demand for palliative care services and its proven track record for improving outcomes, there could be room for home health providers who are looking to expand their care services within the space, Maggie Rogers, a senior research manager at CAPC, told Home Health Care News.
“A home health agency can set up a separate medical practice to provide Part B services, such as specialty palliative care,” said Rogers, lead author of the CAPC report. “In this model, home health care agencies can potentially be a springboard for launching palliative care programs across the United States and, subsequently, improving the availability of community palliative care for people living with serious illness and their families.”
When taking all types of palliative care programs into account, CAPC researchers found that the majority are operated by hospitals or hospices.
Specifically, 33% of palliative care programs are operated by hospice providers, 32% by hospitals, 14% by office practices or clinics, 11% by long-term care facilities and 10% by home health agencies.
About two-thirds of all palliative programs provide in-home palliative care — again, with the majority coming from hospices and hospitals.
“We were surprised by how often community palliative care grows out of a hospital or an in-patient palliative care program and how common it is for programs to operate across settings,” Rogers said. “This finding is a testament to how palliative care is meaningful in all settings and can follow a patient across the care continuum — from the hospital to a clinic, to their home, to a nursing home and so on.”
While palliative care isn’t the same as hospice care, it’s often delivered to individuals nearing the final days of their lives. That’s another reason why understanding the community-based palliative care landscape is so important.
Roughly 30% of deaths in 2017 stemming from natural causes took place in the home — falling in line with the overwhelming preference for remaining in one’s home for care services and the popularity of aging in place among seniors.