BARNSTABLE – Talking about the end of life is the first step toward making important decisions that should not be left to the last minute, according to David Rehm, president and CEO of HopeHealth.
In what local healthcare officials say is a major change in public policy, Medicare plans to reimburse doctors for conversations with patients about medical treatment at the end of life.
“I’m delighted this is getting the public attention it is. I’m delighted there has been a shift in policy,” Rehm said.
HopeHealth is perhaps best known for its hospice program, which provides team-based care for a patient or family facing the end of life. The team is comprised of nurses, social workers, chaplains, physicians, home health aides and therapists. The program, Rehm said, has high levels of patient and family satisfaction, positive patient outcomes, and is also cost-effective.
“It’s one of the few win-win-wins in healthcare today,” Rehm said of hospice.
Talking about death and end of life decisions has always been hard for families but Rehm said it is important.
“It is a critical need,” Rehm said. He said that if a family turns to hospice but has not had those conversations, HopeHealth can help through counseling services they offer.
“We can then help a patient and their family hold those discussions and take the time to sort out the questions and issues that are there,” he said.
HopeHealth’s hospice program admits patients at the earliest possible time. “We do see patients early enough to begin some of those conversations,” he said.
But Rehm stressed that talking about end of life decisions is not a one-time discussion and the earlier a family has the conversations the better. That’s because sometimes there are accidents or other unexpected events that happen to people who are young and in good health.
HopeHealth is a nonprofit healthcare organization that provides a range of medical care, care management and support services to people who experience serious illness or loss. Originally known as Hospice and Palliative Care of Cape Cod, the agency now includes Hope Hospice, Hope House Calls, which is primary-based care delivered to people’s homes—“physicians with black bags, as Rehm put it”; Hope Dementia and Alzheimer’s Services; Hope Care for Kids; Hope Community Care and Hope Academy, which provides education in healthcare. Since June 2014, HopeHealth has also been affiliated with the Massachusetts Pain Initiative.
To hear a discussion about the new proposed Medicare regulations and the public policy issues it involves from David Rehm, president and CEO of HopeHealth, listen below.