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Partners in Three Communities to Increase Hospice Use in Minnesota

Published Saturday, May 24, 2014

Three Minnesota communities are working on a special project to help eligible patients receive hospice care sooner, and to increase appropriate referrals to and utilization of hospice care. Stratis Health, as a Medicare Quality Improvement Organization (QIO), is leading Targeting Resource Use Effectively (TRUE), a one-year special innovation project funded by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

While coverage for hospice services is available through Medicare, it is significantly underused by Medicare consumers across the country, including in Minnesota. Because many Medicare consumers enter hospice care late in the course of their life-limiting illness, they receive fewer days of care than afforded by the benefit. In 2011, the national average was 70 days per patient. Minnesota was significantly lower than the national average—the state's Medicare hospice patients received only 56 days of hospice care on average. The 2012, national median length of stay was only 18.7 days, and 30 percent of all Medicare consumers who died were in hospice for three days or less.

"Hospice is often the most compassionate and medically appropriate option when caring for people at end of life," said Jennifer Lundblad, Stratis Health president and CEO. "But there are many misconceptions, both by patients and their doctors, preventing patients from taking advantage of hospice care. This community-based project will help foster increased understanding and use of the Medicare hospice benefit and address barriers to accessing hospice care."

Stratis Health is supporting the community partners in the TRUE project to help health care providers identify patients who could most benefit from a hospice referral, and to recognize opportunities to encourage patient/provider conversations about hospice or other end of life care earlier in a patient's course of treatment. Stratis Health will be inviting interested organizations to attend an outcomes congress to hear the results of the project on July 16, 2014.

TRUE project communities and their partner organizations are:

Alexandria, MN area partner organizations:

  • Alexandria Clinic
  • Church of St. Mary, Alexandria, MN
  • Douglas County Hospital
  • Ecuman Bethany Community
  • First Lutheran Church, Alexandria, MN
  • Galeon of Osakis
  • Glacial Ridge Home Care & Hospice (lead partner)
  • Glenwood Village Care Center
  • Good Samaritan Society - Glenwood Lakeview
  • Hospice of Douglas County (lead partner)
  • Knute Nelson (lead partner)
  • Max J. Beilke VA Clinic
  • Minnewaska Community Health Services
  • Sanford Health, Alexandria
  • Windmill Ponds Assisted Living

Mora, MN area partner organizations:

  • East Central Senior Resource Center
  • Fairview Lakes HomeCaring & Hospice (lead partner)
  • FirstLight Health System
  • Kanabec County Public Health Hospice (lead partner)
  • Scandia House of Mora
  • St Croix Hospice (lead partner)

Waconia, MN area partner organizations:

  • Good Samaritan Society - Waconia and Westview Acres Assisted Living
  • Lakeview Clinic
  • Ridgeview Medical Center

In addition to improving quality of life for patients, hospice use has been shown to reduce Medicare program expenditures during the last year of life by an average of $2,309 per patient. With low hospice utilization and average length of stay across the country, Stratis Health's TRUE hospice utilization project in Minnesota seeks serve as the foundation for future improvements nationwide.

For more information on the TRUE hospice utilization project, contact Janelle Shearer at 952-853-8553.