A new partnership between Hospice of Hillsdale County in Michigan and Hillsdale Hospital’s skilled nursing facility reflects an industry trend towards interdisciplinary service collaborations in end-of-life care. The move also comes at a time when hospices are seeking ways to improve access to patients in nursing facilities amid tightened restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The partnership was sparked out of the need for a place for our patients to go in case of respite need, and for the patients of Hillsdale Hospital to have choices when facing the need of hospice care,” said Shoshanna Finegan, executive director at Hospice of Hillsdale County. “Although we have always been an independent organization, we feel a connection to the hospital as both organizations work to help the people of our small community. We work well together, although remaining independent. The long-term goal is for both organizations to work together when requested by patients to assist them and their families in times that are difficult.”
Prior to the partnership, referrals from Hillsdale Hospital to the hospice were largely focused on patients requiring end-of-life care in the home. The collaboration aims to boost resources and services available by expanding options available to those who could benefit from hospice care and their families.
“Previously, we worked with Hospice of Hillsdale County for those leaving our facility and requiring hospice services at home,” said Admission and Discharge Coordinator Trish Hendershot. “We knew it was in the best interest of both organizations and the community for us to come together and also offer a continuum of care for patients while they are in our facility.”
Community-based collaborations have been on the rise as providers increasingly seek strategies to reach patients further upstream in their illnesses and improve access to end-of-life care, along with support for their families and caregivers.
“The partnership improves access two-fold,” Finegan told Hospice News over an email. “The patients and families are able to have a choice for hospice care in the facility, and patients in the home have a place to go if respite is needed.”
Better known in the area as the McGuire and MacRitchie units, the skilled nursing facility provides respite care for families and caregivers. Through the partnership, Hospice of Hillsdale County can arrange respite stays for those in need.
The pandemic has caused widespread disruption across the health care continuum, with many hospitals struggling to keep up with a burgeoning influx of patients and many nursing homes contending with outbreaks within their facilities. The nursing home sector has been hit particularly hard, with more than 230,000 confirmed cases in that setting nationwide, along with more than 123,000 suspected cases and nearly 55,000 COVID-19 deaths.
Consequently, nursing homes have implemented strict restrictions on who can enter their buildings, as well as the circumstances and conditions in which an individual may enter. This has led to significant difficulty for many hospices that are trying to access their patients in those facilities and hampers their ability to provide respite care in nursing homes or hospitals.
“Providing our residents caring staff from both organizations, working in concert, creates better continuity of care. This partnership provides the resources for residents who desperately need the extra care and attention hospice provides,” said Tricia Masarik, Hillsdale Hospital’s skilled nursing facility’s administrator and director of nursing. “We want to ensure that our community has access to these critical health care services for decades to come. As time goes on, we will continually improve upon the care services we provide to patients and their families, with the goal of making this time in their life more peaceful and easier to manage.”
Michigan ranked tenth in the nation at a 53.8% hospice utilization among Medicare decedents in 2018, according to a report by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. Utah held the highest rate at 60.5%. With seniors over the age of 65 making up 20% of the Hillsdale County population, the community’s aging demographics are anticipated to drive demand for hospice and related services in the area.