The National Partnership for Hospice Innovation (NPHI) and the American Heart Association (AHA) have begun collaborating on an initiative to increase access to hospice and palliative care for cardiac patients.
The two organizations have developed a Comprehensive Cardiac Care Guide to help spur public and clinician education about palliative care and hospice needs of cardiac patients. The project is designed to help the public understand their full range of health care options, reduce hospitalizations and to educate cardiologists about hospice and palliative care referrals.
“Many patients living with end-stage heart disease do not seek support from a hospice or palliative care provider,” NPHI CEO Tom Koutsoumpas told Hospice News. “Patient and caregiver awareness of access to these services could help manage or prevent breathing difficulties, fatigue and other worsening symptoms. Working together, the AHA and NPHI can define standards of care for end-stage heart failure, while mitigating overuse of inpatient and emergency services.”
NPHI is an industry advocacy group with more than 70 not-for-profit, community-based hospice, palliative, and advanced illness care provider members. Koutsoumpas and AHA CEO Nancy Brown have known each other for several years and in 2019 began discussing ways to work together to raise awareness of the benefits of hospice and palliative care for cardiac patients, which ultimately led to this project.
Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death in the United States, and many of those patients do not receive the full range of evidence-based care, according to the AHA.
The Medicare Hospice Benefit was designed in the early 1980s primarily to address the needs of cancer patients, but people with other diagnoses are coming onto hospice in greater numbers, often with longer lengths of stay. About 17% of Medicare beneficiaries who elected hospice during 2018 suffered from a cardiac illness according to the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization.
A key aspect of the NPHI/AHA collaboration is reaching patients in demographics that historically have been underserved by hospice and palliative care, such as people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community. The African American community is a particular focus because of high rates of heart disease among that population.
“Racial and socioeconomic disparities significantly contribute to the issue of access to cardiac care,” said Cameron Muir, M.D., chief innovation officer at NPHI. “A critical goal of this endeavor is to do everything we can to change the perception and more importantly, the reality – advanced in-home cardiac care is available to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay.”