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A Message from NHPCO

A Message from NHPCO President and CEO
J. Donald Schumacher
July 22, 2011

Recent attention in the media has turned a bright spotlight on purported problems in hospice.  Only yesterday, NHPCO issued a Regulatory Alert summarizing information put out by the OIG, focused on hospice care in the nursing home, as several previous OIG reports have done. Then, this morning, an article by a Bloomberg News reporter brought much of the same OIG information out again in a more sensationalized, investigative fashion. 

First and foremost, NHPCO strongly believes in the value of hospice care as the highest-quality care for patients and family caregivers struggling with serious and life-limiting illness. Furthermore, it is NHPCO’s belief that the overwhelming majority of U.S. hospices are committed to a shared vision to bring the best that humankind can offer to all those individuals facing serious illness, death and grief. Within that vision, however, is the duty of each provider to do the best job possible to ensure that every single patient day of care is within all regulatory and legal limits.  NHPCO will not support any provider who fails to strive for the highest level of compliance and practice.

What we do is not easy.  We share a sacred covenant with those we serve.  In addition to bringing expert care, compassion and dignity to the dying and their family caregivers, we manage multifaceted organizations that are a significant part of the complex American healthcare system. The accomplishments we have made over the past forty years in changing the way we care for the dying is to be celebrated.

NHPCO statistics show more than 1.5 million dying American receive care every year – and this extends beyond Medicare beneficiaries to people of all ages, with an ever increasing number of complex illnesses. NHPCO’s comprehensive survey, the Family Evaluation of Hospice Care, shows 94% of family caregivers surveyed rated care as “very good to excellent.” Additionally, this research shows that if you ask 100 people who’ve had hospice care for a loved one if they’d recommend it to someone else, 98 of them are going to say yes.  There are no professionals or volunteers better equipped to meet the unique needs of the dying than those found in the American hospice and palliative care community. 

In recent years we have also improved our ability to serve people across all care settings and have made advances in reaching populations where hospice is underutilized.  In the decades where we have made such progress, our model of care and the work of the interdisciplinary team has had a positive impact on many other sectors of healthcare.

I am so very proud to represent you and the hundreds of thousands dedicated individuals committed to caring for the dying and their family caregivers.  These are the messages I consistently carry to the media and the public.  And while it’s difficult to see my words not conveyed fully in the media, that does not diminish my faith in the work we are doing to raise awareness of the high quality care that the overwhelming majority of people receive. Our work at the national, state and local level with the media results in a constant stream of  positive news stories and feature pieces that are published in every corner of the country (a selection of which we link in NewsBriefs each week).  That said, it is unfortunate that negatively focused articles can lead to confusion and fear among the public, which in some cases may be an added barrier to care when it’s needed most.

Legally, we are not able to comment on specific lawsuits, nor can we talk about individual patient or employee situations.  However we can and will continue our work helping providers ensure that the care at the bedside not only meets, but exceeds current regulations and standards. 

Long before recent media attention, NHPCO has been committed to increasing quality and helping providers continuously improve performance. This includes:

  • Calling for more consistent and timely regulatory oversight and surveys;
  • Launching NHPCO’s innovative Quality Partners program;
  • Developing a self-assessment program built on the ten foundation blocks of quality;
  • Increasing the number of outcome measurement and data collection tools that are free to our members;
  • Creating the most extensive set of compliance and regulatory tools and resources available in the hospice community for current regulatory requirements:  From face-to-face and changes in the cost report, to the requirements reflected in the historic revision to the CMS hospice regulations, including the Medicare Hospice Conditions of Participation;
  • Providing expert regulatory and compliance guidance to the field;
  • Revising the landmark publication, Standards of Practice for Hospice Providers, to reflect the most up-to-date regulatory guidelines;
  • Offering professional development opportunities onsite and via the Internet that bring expert training in a multitude of formats;
  • Sharing best practices and allowing the nation’s hospice community to network and learn from one another in conferences, forums, e-groups, and more.

NHPCO is committed to serving the entire hospice and palliative care community.  Among our membership are programs large and small, urban and rural, nonprofit and for-profit, government owned and faith-based, single site and multi-site, the variations go on, and this diversity enriches our organization and the field.  Despite these differences our commitment to caring and excellence is the same. 

In my thirty-five years as a hospice and palliative care leader (as a CEO and now in my role leading NHPCO and its affiliates) I’ve met thousands, of hospice professionals (both paid and volunteer) who share a commitment to excellence.  To a person, they share the same beliefs – that the dying and their family caregivers deserve the very best care that humankind has to offer them.  These passion-driven professionals bring compassion and dignity to people when fears are many and hope seems out of reach.

I hope you share these words of encouragement with your staff, volunteers, board members and supporters. 
We will continue our ongoing work at NHPCO to reach out and inform, educate, advocate and build awareness about the quality care you provide. 
Finally, let me reaffirm the work of NHPCO and assure you that we stand with you to make a difference in the lives of people who need the support and caring we provide.

Thank you.

J. Donald Schumacher, PsyD
President and CEO

Note:  NHPCO would like to offer members some talking points (PDF) that may help inform discussions in their communities.

Media Contact:
Jon Radulovic
Vice President, Communications
703-837-3139

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