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Things to consider when choosing a hospice provider

While Medicare-certified hospices are required to offer the same basic services, there are differences between hospice providers that may be important to patients and their circles of support. Here are five things to consider when choosing a hospice provider:

1. Which standards do they follow to ensure quality care?

Some hospice providers hold themselves to higher quality standards than what is required by Medicare. Is the hospice provider a member of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), and do they comply with their Standards for Hospice Programs? Is the hospice provider accredited by an objective third party such as the Community Health Accreditation Partner (CHAP)? If so, this indicates a commitment to quality care above and beyond what is required by Medicare which can greatly affect the patient’s hospice experience.

2. Which services are provided?

family talking about hospice

All Medicare-certified hospice providers are required to provide patients with basic services. However, some hospice providers — like Hospice of the Northwest— also provide specialized care for pediatric patients and Veterans, as well as provide  integrative services like massage therapy, energy work, therapeutic music and more. Integrative therapies can provide deeper levels of comfort for patients and can enhance their care in surprising ways.

3. What is the provider’s history and reputation? 

Medicare offers a useful resource allowing people to compare hospices in their area. These quality indicators are compiled by anonymous, third-party satisfaction surveys to help people obtain a more objective assessment of what their experience might be with a hospice provider. Some specifics to consider are the length of service to the community, whether it is a for-profit company versus a not-for-profit organization, and whether the provider hires their own employees or contracts with other agencies to provide care.

4. What effort does the provider put toward ensuring diversity, equity and inclusivity?

Some hospice providers give more of a focus to their local community and its needs. How does the provider ensure it is meeting the needs of people who don't speak English, or who have diverse cultural and/or religious needs? Will they respect patients and their circles of support who may be members of the LGBTQIA+ community? Is their team trained in the most effective ways to support people from different cultural groups? Is the organization committed to these principles?

5. How will the provider respond to urgent needs?

Some hospice providers only use medications that are mailed to the home or facility. This can sometimes cause a delay in comfort. Will people be able to use their preferred pharmacy, the one they have a relationship with and whose staff are familiar with their history and needs? Will a nurse or counselor come out in the middle of the night if symptoms worsen or if someone needs extra support? Some hospice providers only have a nurse working after hours and on weekends. Will they have to leave a voicemail when you call at 2 a.m., or does the hospice ensure a professional will answer?

Choosing the right hospice provider can make a significant difference to the overall care a person receives. If you think Hospice of the Northwest might be the right hospice provider for one of your patients, please have them give us a call at 360-814-5550.