On Wednesday December 2, Senator Richard Blumenthal introduced the Compassionate Care Act, a bill that supports advance care planning and serious illness. Advance care planning (ACP) is an ongoing process that supports individuals in understanding and sharing their values, goals and preferences for future medical care. These care decisions are then formally documented within an Advance Directive, a legal document that ensures one’s care wishes are followed. Documented benefits of ACP include improvements in patient and family satisfaction and well-being, improved agreement between preferences for care and delivered care, and healthcare savings.
Despite the benefits of ACP, many people with serious illnesses do not receive any ACP services at all; according to Medicare billing data, only 4.2% of seriously ill individuals had an ACP encounter with their physician in 2017. If passed, this bill could help establish a nationwide campaign to educate the public about the importance of advance care planning and grants and pilot initiatives to educate medical, nursing, social work and other related fields about the importance of having end-of-life discussions.
Additionally, the Compassionate Care Act focuses on the development of end-of-life quality measures by expanding access to hospice, palliative care and advance care planning through tele-health to allow care teams to engage with patients earlier in the course of their illness and reap the full benefit of those services.
Outcomes from ACP discussions are positively associated with:
- fewer in-hospital deaths
- fewer unplanned hospital admissions
- shorter hospital stays
- increased family satisfaction with end-of-life care
- reduced burden on caregivers
Unfortunately, even if this bill is passed, primary care physicians and other healthcare providers often don’t want to or don’t have the time or resources to have these difficult but necessary conversations about care goals. Given that the current physician-led ACP model fails to deliver widespread member participation, care organizations should look to implement dedicated ACP programs for their members through either internal resources or an external partner.
As a premiere provider of ACP services through a full spectrum of tele-health and technology-enabled solutions, Iris Healthcare’s primary goal is to ensure that people receive medical care that is consistent with their values, goals and preferences during serious illness. Iris facilitates completion of care plans that support those goals and deliver the core component of palliative care in a significantly more scalable and cost-effective way.
At Iris, we’re crafting the future of ACP programs. In working with health plans and other risk-bearing organizations, we analyze claims data to identify qualified candidates with serious illness for ACP early in their care journey. Our team of trained experts have in-depth conversations with each member, taking the time to listen, counsel and provide support for members and their families to determine their desired course of action and document these care goals in full compliance with state and federal regulations. We leverage our own proprietary documentation in this process to ensure members’ unique care goals are described in full and distribute these documents to the point of use, ensuring physicians and family members are empowered with the information they need to carry out members’ wishes and goals of care.