Pallitus Health Partners, a subsidiary of hospice provider Hosparus Health, has launched a disease-specific program to serve the palliative care needs of patients with pulmonary illnesses. The company expects its Lung Care Program to help patients receive care further upstream, leading to longer lengths of stay and extending their life expectancy. The program is also expected to reduce hospitalizations and emergency department visits.
During 2020, the number of Hosparus patients who had been diagnosed with chronic lung diseases rose by 40%, the company reported. Hosparus established the Pallitus Health Partners subsidiary to better differentiate its palliative care services from its hospice business.
As they developed the Lung Care Program, Pallitus realized that they were not reaching many of the pulmonary patients in their service area, according to Stephanie Alvey Banks, clinical program development specialist for Hosparus.
“What we see in our community is that there’s a ton more patients out there that just aren’t coming to us. We know that there is high acute care utilization going on,” Banks told Hospice News. “We understand that patients just don’t understand that palliative care and hospice care is appropriate for that diagnosis either. We wanted to make sure that we had a good plan set up.”
The program offers a symptom management toolkit that includes a symptom tracker, action plan tool, medication organizer and lung care education guide. Patients and families will have 24-hour telephone access to clinicians and will receive education about advanced lung disease.
Eligible patients include those suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary fibrosis, cystic fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension and other chronic lung conditions. The program will be offered throughout the Hosparus footprint, which includes 41 counties in Kentucky and Indiana.
About 11% of Medicare decedents who elected hospice care during 2018 suffered from a respiratory illness, according to the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization. Cancer was the most frequent diagnosis at nearly 30%. Data are not available regarding the number of pulmonary patients who receive community-based palliative care.
More than 720,000 adults in Kentucky and Indiana have a chronic lung condition, according to the American Lung Association.
“We learned that patients did not have the tools and the education that they needed to take care of themselves. What they did know was to call 911 or go into the hospital for help,” Banks said. “They didn’t know the sequence of events that could prevent that hospitalization.”
The hospice bills the patient’s insurance for a provider visit, which occurs every four to six weeks. Staff provide patient and family education during those visits as well as addressing other needs.
This is the second disease-specific care program developed under the Pallitus Health Partners brand. The company’s Heart Connections program provides tools to help clinicians and families address the specific needs of patients with advanced cardiac disease. Through this program, Pallitus has brought its cardiac-related hospital readmissions rate to 1%, compared to a national average of 21%, according to Hosparus.
Pallitus cared for 533 patients through the Heart Connections program during 2020. Those patients lived an average of three months longer than cardiac patients who were not enrolled in the program. The company has considered additional disease-specific programs, but no others are currently in development.
“We reviewed the success of our Heart Connection program,” Banks said. “We developed similar tools to help [lung disease] patients with an action plan for when they’re having significant shortness of breath and crisis medications for when they become symptomatic, when we can intervene and prevent those hospital stays.”