Medicaid health plan provider Aetna Better Health of Virginia has launched a partnership with technology and advance care planning solutions firm Vital Decisions to begin a telehealth program to engage plan members in goals-of-care discussions following diagnosis of a serious illness.
Early conversations are positively associated with family decisions to limit or withdraw life-sustaining treatments, fewer in-hospital deaths, fewer unplanned hospital admissions, shorter hospital stays, family satisfaction with end-of-life care, and increased odds of receiving strong opioid pain medications in the last 24 hours of life, according to a study in the March 2019 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association.
“Our goal at Aetna Better Health of Virginia is to best serve our members at every stage of their lives, and to do so with compassion in trying times for individuals and their families,” said Jerold Mammano, CEO, Aetna Better Health of Virginia. “Our collaboration with Vital Decisions reflects our priority to support those facing serious illness emotionally and practically as we support them on their health care journey. The Living Well program is so effective, at scale, in improving care and bringing peace of mind.”
Only 1 in 3 people in the United States have had discussions with clinicians and loved ones about their end-of-life wishes, even though about 92% had said they believe such conversations are important, according to a 2018 survey by the Conversation Project. Fewer than 40% of those who suffer from a serious illness have an advance directive, the survey found.
Patients who participate in the Aetna/Vital Decisions Living Well program will have access to Vital Decisions’ online advance care planning platform, which guides them in preparing an advance directive, including designating a surrogate decision maker.
Advance care plans are a key tool in ensuring that patient choices are known and honored during the course of their serious or terminal illnesses. Incentivizing advance care planning discussions to place a greater emphasis has been correlated to improved outcomes. Such discussions about patient’s end-of-life goals and wishes have been associated with improved access to quality of care, increased hospice utilization and longer life expectancy.
“The burden one feels when dealing with advanced illness weighs heavily on them. Having these important, delicate conversations makes care decisions clear for all involved and eases some of that burden,” said Leah Puccio, Vital Decisions’ CEO. “Aetna Better Health of Virginia recognizes the value of this, and our partnership highlights the commitment and dedication they have to their members — and how their innovative advanced illness and end of life care strategy is making a difference.”