I enter February, 2018 with almost a year under my belt. 2017 was a whirlwind of learning and listening, meeting new friends, and sketching out our future. My travels have filled my heart, head, and belly- with amazingly dedicated professionals, sharp leaders, and fried bologna sandwiches, in that order. If 2017 was a year for education and listening, 2018 is a year for change and action.
Change is not just on the horizon – it’s already here. Accountable Care Organizations, Independence at Home, Value Based Purchasing and various other models are competing for patients and scarce Medicare dollars. As I traveled the country last year, I heard concern about that change. But along with that concern, I heard many common themes that give me hope for our collective future – a shared set of values, a commitment to the patients and families we serve, and a communal pride that we are the absolute best at what we do. These principles – which emanate from the heart of hospice – are what will serve as the guiding principles for action in 2018 and beyond:
- We are the interdisciplinary, person-centered, integrated, coordinated benefit that Medicare has been covering for over 35 years. What is secondary and new to the rest of Medicare, is central to Hospice.
- We do much more than provide care to individuals—we care for caregivers and communities as well.
- We must better communicate our value to our payers and partners—government, managed care, and all other three and four-letter words in between.
- Once we establish that foundation, we must energize ourselves—and our volunteers and caregivers—to make sure that we communicate our value to legislative and regulatory decision makers.
- Having energized ourselves and communicated our value, and having established a solid foundation, it is time to boldly establish a more durable vehicle for providing more care, without arbitrary rules (6 months, no concurrent care) and that is not subject to burdensome and non-productive oversight and compliance activity.
- Concurrently, we will focus on pre-hospice serious illness care that is informed and motivated by the same focus on interdisciplinary, person-centered care. Not emanating from clinicians, institutions or algorithms, this team-based approach has been our bedrock for over 35 years and will continue to be at our core going forward.
I look forward to moving ahead without forgetting our past. We are the original interdisciplinary, person-centered, population health movement. We welcome everyone else’s interest—and that includes Amazon—but I submit that they have as much to learn from us as we have to learn from them. I’m grateful to lead NHPCO at this important time, and look forward to working with and for our community in the coming years.