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How Do I Choose A Hospice?

We frequently are asked, “How do I choose a hospice agency?”

Very simply, you choose a hospice agency in the same manner and with the same care that you would choose any product or service that will have a major influence on your life or the life of a loved one.

First:

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Conduct careful and detailed research on your local hospice agencies. The Internet is a good source of information about hospice agencies, since most have a website that describes both their operation and their philosophy of care.

Note that you can review facility ratings, consumer complaints and discrepancies that State Inspectors have recorded over the past several years for each facility or organization. Hospice of the Sacred Heart is proud of our non-profit status.

Friends and associates can be valuable sources of information as well since, in many cases, they have had personal experience with hospice agencies or know others who have. Your physician and your church will also have information on local hospice agencies.

Please bear in mind that all hospice agencies in Pennsylvania must be licensed by the state. State licensing, and the licensing inspections (or “surveys”), are conducted in cooperation with Medicare. For this reason, the state licensing requirements follow the Medicare hospice standards (“Conditions of Participation”) very closely. In other words, the state’s licensing standards for hospice agencies are essentially the same as the Medicare Conditions of Participation.

According to state and Medicare requirements, all hospice agencies must provide the same services. For this reason, your research must be more detailed, so you understand the personalities and cultures of the hospice agencies you consider.

Second:

Talk with the admissions coordinator at each of the hospice agencies you are considering. Questions you should ask include:

Are you state licensed and Medicare certified (if the patient will be using the Medicare Part A benefits)?
As mentioned above, all hospice agencies in PA must be licensed by the state. If an agency offers services to Medicare patients, the agency must also be certified by Medicare.

Will the agency assign a specific RN case manager, Social Worker, Chaplain and home health aide to the patient or will the agency rotate its staff members based on the agency’s convenience for staff scheduling?
Hospice of the Sacred Heart will assign specific professionals to each patient. We will not change staff members, if we can possibly avoid doing so, unless the patient or patient’s representative asks us to make a change.

Can I interview the specific staff members who will be caring for the patient?
This is an extremely important step in your research. You should become very knowledgeable and comfortable with the specific hospice staff members who will be coming to the home to provide care. It is in your, and the patient’s, best interest to know the people you will be working with during this critical time in the patient’s life. Preferred hospice agencies will be happy to allow you to do this.

Can you provide references from caregivers or family members who have worked with your agency and these specific staff members?
Some hospices will suggest that the privacy provisions of the HIPAA Act prevent them from doing this. Hospice of the Sacred Heart will be happy to provide this information, since they will have many families who have asked to be used as references for future patients.

Do you ever charge Medicare patients directly for any care, services, supplies, equipment, or prescription drugs that you provide?
Hospice of the Sacred Heart will never charge any patient for services or supplies relative to their hospice diagnosis.

Will my prescriptions, supplies and equipment be delivered to my home? Will there be any charge for delivery?
Hospice of the Sacred Heart will include this service at no charge. We provide home delivery for all prescriptions, medical supplies and medical equipment, including oxygen, at no charge.

Can you provide hospice care to patients residing in nursing homes?
The answer is yes… in some, but not all, cases.

If having the ability to choose the hospice you want is important to you, you should ask the nursing home if they will allow your chosen hospice to provide service to you. Since all hospices that are State licensed and Medicare certified provide the same services, you should also ask the nursing home what criteria they use to choose particular hospices and exclude others.

Finally, our answer to the question. We will be able to provide hospice care to you if we have a working agreement with your nursing home. If we do not have a signed working agreement, we will do everything in our power to work towards that goal of providing you hospice care.

If I have questions or concerns that the RN Case Manager cannot answer, who is the agency point of contact (name and phone number) that I can talk to so I can resolve my concerns?
Hospice of the Sacred Heart will be happy to provide this information to you. At Hospice of the Sacred Heart you will always have immediate access to our Director of Patient Care and our CEO.

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Third:

After you choose a hospice agency, it is very important that you monitor the services provided by the agency to ensure that the patient continues to receive the highest level of respectful, compassionate and quality care that he or she deserves. Never hesitate to ask questions of any staff member or your contact at the agency when something is not clear to you or you have concerns about patient care. Hospice of the Sacred Heart will always provide prompt, courteous answers to your questions.

Finally:

Please read question #19 in our Frequently Asked Questions section regarding patient transfers from one hospice to another. The important concept to understand is that the patient is NEVER required or forced to remain with the first hospice you choose. If for some reason you decide that your choice of hospice agencies is no longer in the best interest of the patient, the patient may transfer AT ANY TIME to another hospice agency once per benefit period without loss of Medicare Hospice Benefits.