Hospices Rebrand to Shake Stigma, Reflect Scope of Service

As hospices nationwide develop new services to engage patients further upstream, some are rebranding to reflect their expanded scope and to avoid the word “hospice” in their company names, hoping to ameliorate patients’ anxiety about end-of-life care.

Hospice Hawaii is now Navian Hawaii. The 40-year-old, nonprofit organization recently made the name change to better reflect its newly broadened scope of services, which now includes integrated care for patients with serious, but treatable medical conditions.

“Navian Hawaii was a natural evolution of our brand, to allow us to provide care for every life journey; while at the same time, fulfilling unmet needs,” said Tori Abe Carapelho, president and CEO for Navian Hawaii. “There are so many people living with serious illness that aren’t ready for hospice care, but require support services to improve their quality of life. We responded to that need by expanding our services with Integrated Care. Doing this resulted in the need for a new name to encompass our extended model of care.”

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Navian’s new Integrated Care Program includes a nurse practitioner and social worker who provide disease process education, emotional support, advanced care planning, and additional services to help alleviate the pain and challenges that patients face.

Navian’s rebranding is part of a growing trend in hospice care that sees providers diversifying their services to better assist patients, but also to change the general perception of hospice care.

“During the pilot phase of our Integrated Care program we learned that when the word ‘hospice’ is in your name, it is a little scary to patients who aren’t looking for ‘hospice care,’” said Carapelho. “Our name change was not intended to remove ourselves from the word, but rather to evolve as an organization. Although we recognize that there’s still a stigma out there associated with the word hospice, our goal is to continue to educate the community as much as possible so that one day people aren’t afraid, and can confidently make the decisions that is right for them.”

Navian is not alone in taking these steps. Last month Catskill Area Hospice and Palliative Care rebranded as Helios Care to reflect its growing portfolio of services and to reduce stigma associated with hospice in the minds of many patients and families. The company cares for about 110 patients in three counties in largely rural segments of New York state.

“More and more evidence shows that the word hospice has become a deterrent to referrals and accepting of the service. It has a connotation of the very end of life, as in days not weeks, and average length of stay up until recently for patients who died on hospice was 17 days — fairly short,” Dan Ayres, CEO of Helios Care, told Hospice News in November. “I think all hospices suffer from that dilemma. We get the patients on service, but the length of stay is so short. We find that even for families who have had positive experiences with hospice, the name itself invoked feelings of sadness and loss. So the name itself can be a deterrent.”

Hospice rebranding is also a way for organizations to capitalize on emerging payment models such as Primary Care First and the Medicare Advantage hospice carve-in set to begin in 2021. Primary Care First, offered by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), is designed to control costs, reduce avoidable hospitalizations and improve care coordination.

Navian, Helios and other hospice organizations that have expanded their scope of services will be better prepared for this plan, which could see gross margins in excess of 20% to 25% for hospice providers that participate. CMS will implement Primary Care First in phases beginning in January 2021.

“Our entire strategy has been to prepare for value-based purchasing, because we know that’s what the future is, rather than trying to hold on to the status quo,” Ayres said.

Under Navian’s new moniker, which was formed from the words “Navigator” and “Guardian,” the organization will continue to offer hospice care as its core service. All of the programs previously begun under Hospice Hawaii will go on, including community support groups, and complementary therapies to aid in patients’ comfort and healing process.

“As the emerging payment models continue to develop, our focus has turned to access to continuity, care coordination and advance care planning, which Integrated Care certainly addresses,” Carapelho told Hospice News. “It also allows us earlier entry into the patient’s health care trajectory, which can only result in a better quality of care for everyone.”

Written by Markisan Naso

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