Hospices are expected to deliver superior service even as demand ramps up and staffing shortages become a reality. During these unexpected times, Interdisciplinary Groups (IDGs) – also called Interdisciplinary Teams (IDTs) – help offer a way to improve compassionate hospice care delivery and increase patient satisfaction. But what is an interdisciplinary team? What elements are critical to help meet patient needs and support their families over time? Let’s dive in.
What is a Hospice IDG?
According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), “The interdisciplinary model is the hallmark of hospice care.”1 IDGs use a shared responsibility model that makes it possible for hospice providers to deliver plans of care (POCs) for patients that meet their specific needs and address their unique concerns.
IDGs typically consist of a physician, registered nurse, social worker, and a pastoral or other counselor. They may also include therapists, aides, and volunteers. No matter the exact makeup of the group, however, it’s critical for hospices to develop processes and procedures that allow these teams to work in tandem to deliver superior care.
Three Key Elements of Effective Interdisciplinary Groups
While hospice IDG groups aren’t static – staffing, regulatory or patient demands may require the addition of new personnel or a change in existing procedures – common elements can help improve overall effectiveness.
1) Comprehensive Care Planning
The Medicare Learning Network fact sheet on plans of care notes that all hospice care services must follow an individualized and written POC to help meet patient needs. 2 As a result, comprehensive care planning is critical to ensure POC goals are both well-defined and achievable. In practice, this means assigning team members specific tasks based on their roles and creating schedules that ensure patient care is delivered in such a way that it supports ongoing care. For example, it may make sense to schedule nurse and social work visits early in the week and physician visits later so doctors have access to patients’ most recent progress reports.
2) Complete Patient Documentation
This ties into the next element of effective IDG teams: complete patient documentation. To ensure POCs are meeting objectives and caregivers can deliver the most recent data to families, it’s critical for hospice providers to implement hospice software solutions that enable anytime access even when there is no internet connection available and on-demand access. Effective documentation offers the dual benefit of compliance and confidence. Robust reporting helps ensure regulatory obligations are met, and empowers teams to adjust POCs as needed.
3) Clear IDG Meeting Communication
Regular IDG meetings are necessary to discuss specific patient needs, address potential issues and plan long-term care strategies. The challenge? Remote work realities make in-person meetings increasingly difficult, in turn driving the need for communication and collaboration options that allow team members to easily join meetings from home, in the office, or while on the road.
Hospice care expectations are evolving to satisfy both patient and process requirements. IDGs are essential to this transition. Supported by comprehensive planning, complete documentation, and clear communication, hospices can ensure IDGs continue to work collaboratively and effectively in the best interest of their patients.
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Resources:1 The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), “Interdisciplinary Team (IDT/IDG) and Care Planning,” 2021.
2 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), “Creating an Effective Hospice Plan of Care,” July 2021.