Supportive Services at End of Life Can Help Reduce Acute Care Services: Observations from the Medicare Care Choices Model
This study identifies the mechanisms through which supportive and palliative care services at the end-of-life helped prevent unnecessary use of acute care services.
From 2016 to 2021, the Medicare Care Choices Model (MCCM) tested whether offering Medicare beneficiaries the option to receive supportive and palliative care services through hospice providers, concurrently with treatments for their terminal conditions, improved patients’ quality of life and care and reduced Medicare expenditures. Previous MCCM evaluation results showed that the model achieved its goals, but did not examine in depth the causal mechanisms leading to these results.
Mixed-methods evaluation based on descriptive analysis of MCCM encounter data and qualitative analysis of interviews with staff from high-performing MCCM hospices.
MCCM hospices provided 217 156 encounters to 7263 enrollees over 6 years. Enrollees received on average 30 encounters with hospice staff while enrolled in the model, representing about 10 encounters per month enrolled. Most encounters were delivered by clinically trained staff in the patient’s home. Hospice staff identified five services critical for keeping patients from seeking acute care services: early and frequent needs assessments, direct observation of patients in their homes, immediate responses to patients’ medical complaints, round-the-clock telephone access to nursing staff, and communication and coordination of care with primary care physicians and specialists.
Palliative care approaches that are high-touch, employ clinically trained staff who visit patients in their homes, routinely evaluate how to manage patient symptoms, and are available when needs arise can improve outcomes and decrease costs at the end of life.