The federal government has unveiled a new online tool to help patients and their families decide which hospice provider best meets their needs.
Hospice Compare allows consumers to see how the provider they are considering stacks up against the national average when it comes to such measures as managing pain, treating symptoms, treatment preferences and how much the hospice takes into account a patient’s beliefs and values in providing end-of-life care.
Hospices offer care and support to individuals with a terminal illness who have a prognosis of six months or less. Hospices focus on palliative care to relieve pain and on symptom management. They also provide grief and loss counseling and other support to families and caregivers.
Patients and their families can search Hospice Compare by the name of the service they are considering or by using their own zip code to see the array of services nearby. Most hospice care is delivered at a patient’s home, but Medicare also covers care in an inpatient hospice facility.
The website “will help empower them in a time of vulnerability as they look for information necessary to make important decisions about hospice care for loved ones,” said Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which developed the tool. A transparent website for such data is a requirement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Todd Cote, M.D., chairs the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine’s Hospice Medical Director Council. “We’ve been constantly trying to impress upon the public how important it is that you choose hospice care that fits what you need,” said Cote, who welcomes the website and the data it will provide patients and their families.
Cote said this website could be particularly useful when, for example, the person needing hospice care lives in one part of the country and family members live somewhere else. “Something like this can really help give them a start,” he said. But beyond the data available through Hospice Compare, Cote said, it is important for patients and families to consider what other care the service they are considering provides, including respite and hospital services.
The data on Hospice Compare are based on information submitted so far by approximately 3,876 hospices. CMS has similar tools that compare hospitals, physicians, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes, dialysis treatment facilities and home health care.