The life expectancy of Americans is slowly increasing. In 2019, it was 78.87 years — in 2021, it rose to 78.99.1 While this isn’t a massive increase year-over-year, it sets the stage for a significant trend: Older Americans are steadily growing in number.
As a result, there’s now a greater need for effective and efficient hospice care frameworks that deliver comprehensive, patient-centered care. The first step in this process? Hospice admission. Here’s how hospices can help position patient entries to help ensure optimal care.
Create a Dedicated Admissions Team
Admissions aren’t always straightforward. Specific patient needs and treatment histories can play a significant role in their initial hospice requirements. To help build a dedicated admissions team, the Referral & Admission Models Resource from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), recommends creating a dedicated admissions team that can help streamline this process.2 For example, hospice providers might choose to have a registered nurse (RN) complete the admissions process end-to-end, or loop in interdisciplinary group (IDG) members for additional support. Regardless of the structure, however, the key is to ensure a focus on admissions to deliver consistency.
Implement Improved Prescreening Procedures
Patient prescreening is a critical element of hospice care. By understanding the current challenges faced by patients and their families, hospice providers can better serve their needs. According to a recent article in the NIH National Library of Medicine, between 13 and 42 percent of patients admitted to hospice care have delirium, but “symptoms of delirium are often subtle and easily missed, or misdiagnosed as fatigue or depression.”3 Enhanced prescreening procedures that prioritize the identification of common but often overlooked conditions such as delirium can help streamline the admissions process and reduce the need for resource-intensive care reevaluations down the line.
While critical prescreening priorities will look different for every hospice provider, it’s worth leveraging IDG teams to reach a consensus on where screenings are working as intended and which areas need improvement. Here, data is the critical driver, and hospice software systems that offer centralized data access can help reduce the time required to develop effective prescreening processes.
Prioritize Staff Satisfaction and Retention
Great admissions depend on great staff. Experienced, empathetic staff members can help ease the transition for patients and ensure families feel like they’re part of the process rather than outsiders looking in. The challenge? Retention. As noted by recent survey data, 35 percent of hospice providers pointed to staffing as their biggest non-COVID challenge this year, more than double the next-closest concern of increased competition at 16 percent.4
While reducing staff turnover starts with an “employee-first” culture that offers a balance between healthcare obligations and personnel needs, there’s also a need to improve at-work satisfaction with hospice software scheduling, billing, and documentation tools that make it easy for staff to complete key tasks anytime, anywhere.
Demand for hospice care is growing as American life expectancy increases, and patient-centered treatment is becoming a top priority for many patients and their families — and it all starts with admissions.
1 Macrotrends, “U.S. Life Expectancy 1950-2021,” 2020.
2 National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, “Referral and Admissions Model Resource,” June 2018.
3 National Library of Medicine, “A Quality Improvement Approach to Cognitive Assessment on Hospice Admission: Could We Use the 4AT or Short CAM?,” August 31, 2017.
4 Hospice News, “Top 2021 Hospice Worries: Accessing Facility-Bound Patients, Staffing,” February 8, 2021.