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Rural Palliative Care

Featured Resources

Quality Measures for Community-Based, Rural Palliative Care Programs in Minnesota: A Pilot Study. This Journal of Palliative Medicine article reviews Stratis Health study to identify and field test a standard set of quality measures for rural, community-based palliative care programs.

TRUE Hospice Utilization Project: A Community-Based Approach to Increasing Appropriate Hospice Use.

Cost Savings and Enhanced Hospice Enrollment with a Home-Based Palliative Care Program Implemented as a Hospice–Private Payer Partnership. This study aimed to evaluate the impact of a home-based palliative care program, implemented through a hospice–private payer partnership, on health care costs and utilization. Journal of Palliative Medicine.

CAPC releases Payer-Provider Partnership Toolkit. Implementation of palliative care is one of the major strategies to improve quality of care for those with serious illness. The Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) Payer-Provider Partnership Toolkit is a reference guide for organizations that are working together to find new ways to deliver and finance palliative care (including commercial insurers, self-funded employers, and federal and state government agencies) and for providers working in shared risk arrangements.

Stratis Health is working to establish or strengthen palliative care programs in rural communities. Since 2008, we have supported more than 25 rural communities, in Minnesota and nationally, to build community capacity to offer palliative care services.

About Palliative Care

Palliative care is a field new to many health care providers. This approach to managing serious and advanced illness centers on relieving suffering and improving quality of life for patients and their families. Palliative care teams help patients and their families understand treatment options, and facilitate effective communication among health care professionals, patients, and family members—bringing together the support systems that patients need to determine how to plan for the best quality of life and care. Palliative care differs from hospice in that it is appropriate at any point in a serious illness and can be provided at the same time as curative treatment.

People in rural communities have less access to palliative care services, but potentially greater need. To date, the majority of palliative care programs have developed primarily in large hospitals in urban settings and delivery models for palliative care for rural communities lag behind. However, rural populations are disproportionately ill, disabled, poor, and older. Rural adults are also more likely than their urban counterparts to have a range of chronic conditions.

Palliative care programs and services align well with other efforts to redesign care delivery. Health reform efforts at the state and national levels are calling for increased coordination across settings of care and increased focus on individuals with multiple chronic illnesses. Development of interdisciplinary palliative care services can be a cornerstone of better addressing the needs of patients with life-limiting illness and high health care costs.

Rural communities are uniquely positioned to meet the challenges of providing palliative care through collaborative efforts. Rural communities with similar areas of focus can benefit from structured opportunities to connect and share tools and lessons learned in implementation. A set process and timeline, access to palliative care program development expertise, and external facilitation to help initiate and develop community-based teams are important aspects that can assist in further developing community-based palliative care efforts in rural areas.

Stratis Health’s Palliative Care Efforts

Stratis Health assists communities with program development and in building skills to improve advance care planning, symptom management, communication, coordination, and delivery of care to improve the quality of life and care for those with chronic diseases or life-limiting illness. Community-based teams identify their goals and resources, and then develop plans for implementation with a focus on current strengths and resources.

Our palliative care work is a collaboration between Stratis Health and Fairview Health Services' Palliative Care Program. Stratis Health leads the initiatives, acting as the convener and bringing expertise in rural health, quality improvement, and learning collaboratives. Fairview is a supporting partner, providing clinical and operational expertise in palliative care. UCare provides funding for the initiatives.

For resources and more information:

Palliative Care Fact Sheet. An overview of Stratis Health’s work. (2-page PDF)

Minnesota Rural Palliative Care Initiative: Building Palliative Care Capacity in Rural Minnesota, Journal of Palliative Medicine, February 2013, article abstract.

Palliative Care in Rural Minnesota: Findings from Stratis Health's Minnesota Rural Palliative Care Initiative, Minnesota Medicine, January/February 2016.

Rural Palliative Care Resource Center

Contact Stratis Health for assistance with your quality improvement and patient safety needs.

If your organization has projects it would like to work on, contact us to discuss how we can work together to support initiatives related to palliative care.

Janelle Shearer, program manager

Karla Weng, program manager