I often get asked about palliative care – what it is and whether or not we offer it at Hosparus Health.
Basically, palliative care is specialized medical care for people with a serious illness. It focuses on providing relief from symptoms and stress brought on by illness. The goal is to improve quality of life for the patient and family or caregiver.
So, by definition, all hospice care is palliative care. But not all palliative care is hospice care.
Patients who qualify for hospice care must have a terminal illness with a life expectancy of six months or less, and have decided not to pursue further curative treatment. Any seriously ill patient can seek palliative care, which can be offered alongside curative treatments. Palliative care is most often provided in a hospital setting. But more and more, we see patients and families who could benefit from palliative care at home.
Our Hosparus Health staff has seen this need in patients who are discharged from hospice because they are no longer eligible. With this population in mind, we will launch our adult palliative care pilot program on June 22. It will be available only to patients discharged from the Hosparus Health Northeast community during the initial pilot.
It will be led by Lori Earnshaw, M.D., a board-certified internal medicine and palliative medicine specialist who recently left University of Louisville, where she trained fellows, residents and medical students in palliative care and led the clinical palliative care program at University Hospital.
It will be staffed by our current at-home support team of nurses, a social worker, a CNA and volunteers. Since insurance does not cover in-home palliative care at this time, patients and families will need to pay for the service out of pocket.
We expect that, for the first year of the pilot program, our home-based palliative care patients will come from one of two sources — Hosparus Health patients who stabilize under hospice care and no longer qualify for the hospice benefit from Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance but still want and need a high level of care; and from referrals to Hosparus Health who either don’t meet the guidelines for hospice care or do meet guidelines but choose to continue medical treatments that cannot be provided through the hospice benefit.
Hosparus Health has provided high-quality palliative care to children for many years through our Kourageous Kids program. We believe the time is right for us to expand this care to adults in our service area.