Monday, March 22, 2010

Improvisational Nature of Palliative Care , and APCOs

I'm often asked why the Accountable Palliative Care Organization (APCO) model is vital to the success of palliative care programs. There are many reasons, of course, but here's one at or near the top of my list. Currently, there is no third-party reimbursement specific to the provision of palliative care, although palliative services are often billed in other reimbursement categories, most frequently, the hospice or home health benefit, and physician or nurse practitioner consultation services (in the hospital, long-term care, or home settings). In addition, there is no regulatory structure or standard-setting body for palliative care (although JCAHO has recently introduced proposed regulations and the National Quality Forum compiled in 2006 a compendium of 38 preferred Practices in Hospital Palliative Care). ( ).

The absence of targeted reimbursement and regulation is reflected nationally in the improvisational nature of palliative programs. The Accountable Palliative Care Organization (APCO) offers a structural model that improves the odds for success for a program’s sponsor. Improvisation does not have to mean trial and error, or fitful starts in a program's development.

An APCO provides the structure that brings together professionals to transfer knowledge across settings and disciplines, and the technical capacities through which staff across disciplines and settings are trained in palliative care- specific techniques and tools.APCOs have been successful models for improving delivery of chronic and end-of-life care because their characteristics encourage processes of care that are:
Timely – delivered to the right patient at the right time (early identification of patients)
Patient-centered – based on the goals and preferences of the patient and family, articulated in goals of care conversations
Beneficial and effective – demonstrably influencing important patient outcomes (place of death, intensive care utilization, transitions between settings and providers)
Accessible - available to all who are in need and who could benefit (multiple entry points into palliative care continuum, and absence of barriers related to reimbursement and prognosis).

After all, aren't these processes of care all program sponsors strive for. Yet, so many of us struggle in developing successful programs. I'd like to learn your thoughts.

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