Ohio Law: Inform Patients About Palliative Care

Under a new Ohio law , hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, nursing homes, and other health care organizations in Ohio must develop systems to identify patients or residents who are in need of palliative care and inform them about the benefits and availability of those services.

Other provisions in the law allow inpatient hospice providers to offer palliative care to non-hospice patients in their facilities.

“I spent two years seeing firsthand the dramatic impact access to palliative care had on my dad and my entire family,” said State Rep. Sarah LaTourette, who sponsored the bill. “I am certain that it not only improved his quality of life, but extended his life long enough that he was able to still be here for the birth of my son, his first grandchild. I want all Ohioans to be aware of and have access to this type of care.”

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The goal of this law is to further integrate palliative care into mainstream medicine and to ensure public access to information about palliative care. According to the Centers to Advance Palliative Care, more than 70 percent of people in the United States are unaware of or know very little about palliative care.

In addition to patient information requirements, the law amends state regulations for hospice providers licensed in Ohio to provide medically necessary palliative care to non-hospice patients in an inpatient facility or unit on a short-term basis. Further, entities that hold a license to provide hospice care are not precluded from owning, being owned, or being otherwise affiliated with any entity that provides palliative care to non-hospice patients.

The law also directs the Ohio Department of Health to put forth rules governing the provision of inpatient palliative care to non-hospice patients. The department has not released a timeline for proposing or implementing those rules, but the rules will likely resemble provisions contained in a guidance document the agency prepared.

The law establishes a Palliative Care and Quality of Life Interdisciplinary Council and an associated education program to study and promote awareness of and access to palliative care throughout Ohio. Currently 25 states have passed legislation establishing similar groups, including Kentucky earlier this week.

“Going through or watching a family member take on a serious illness, whether it’s terminal or not, can be heart wrenching and devastating,” LaTourette said. “However, when we are faced with these inevitable challenges, access to meaningful care can make a world of difference. That’s what I’m hoping to accomplish with this legislation.”