Community Hospice of Texas, the largest nonprofit hospice provider in the Lone Star State, has rebranded as Community Healthcare of Texas, reflecting a growing trend of hospices updating their brands to reflect an expanding scope of services in anticipation of value-based payment models.
The Community Healthcare of Texas rebranding reflects the organization’s intentions of engaging patients and families further upstream. In addition to offering adult and pediatric palliative care, the organization is planning a private duty nursing program.
“As we looked towards the future of health care — and especially the hospice and palliative care industries — we saw that we needed to start to add some services and expand to try to get these patients in a little bit sooner. Across the country, we are seeing very short lengths of stay under hospice care. Although the benefit is designed for patients who have a life expectancy of six months or less, many patients are only in hospice for days or sometimes even hours.” Robin Carter, chief strategy officer for Community Healthcare of Texas, told Hospice News. “We also really wanted to look at a way that we could make more impact and provide better care to patients and families who need help but fall outside of that six-month window.”
Nearly 28% of Medicare-enrolled patients who elected hospice had a length of stay of seven days or less during 2017, according to the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization. More than 54% of hospice patients had a length of stay of less than 30 days.
A number of other providers in the hospice space have rebranded to indicate a growing range of services and to shed potential stigma associated with the word “hospice.”
Hospice Hawaii, for example, recently changed its name to Navian Hawaii and markets itself as a provider of integrated care for patients with serious, but treatable, medical conditions.
Likewise, Catskill Area Hospice and Palliative Care in November rebranded as Helios Care to account for its growing portfolio of services. The company cares for about 110 patients in three counties in largely rural segments of New York state.
The inclusion of hospice in value-based payment models such as Medicare Advantage plans is also driving service diversification and, in turn, rebranding. The Medicare Advantage hospice carve-in demonstration is set to begin Jan. 1, 2021, and the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently began accepting applications to participate.
Through Medicare Advantage, CMS contracts with private insurance companies to provide coverage for Medicare beneficiaries. CMS earlier this year announced that it would test coverage of hospice care through Medicare Advantage plans. The carve-in, according to CMS, is intended to increase access to hospice services and facilitate better coordination between patients’ hospice providers and their other clinicians. Reactions to the carve-in demo have been mixed, with many lauding the CMS action and others expressing concern.
Though many aspects of the carve-in remain unclear at this stage, reductions in payments for hospice care are likely, as is greater flexibility in bringing patients into care earlier in their disease trajectory. This is raising the importance of engaging patients further upstream.
While Texas is not one of the states selected by CMS to participate in the carve-in when the program launches in 2021, Community Healthcare expects CMS to expand the program to Texas in subsequent years. Preparing for this eventuality also informed their rebranding.
“We are certainly hoping that in the future Texas will be considered, and we will have set ourselves up to be able to participate in that. We do currently have a palliative care program covered through contracts with insurance providers. We also have a community-based program called Pathways, a social work-driven model that assists patients who have limited resources and support as they’re making decisions and filling out advanced care plans,” Carter said. “We have already put a some things in place even though we are not in those pilot [Medicare Advantage] programs. We will be prepared to participate in them when the time comes.”