High risk heart patients underuse hospice care options

American Heart Association

DALLAS and WASHINGTON, DC, April 20, 2021- Despite the longer survival times for heart failure patients enrolled in hospice than those who are not, too few patients utilize this set of services[1],[2]. In collaboration to address this gap in care, the National Partnership for Healthcare and Hospice Innovation (NPHI), and the American Heart Association – the world’s leading voluntary organization dedicated to a world of longer, healthier lives – are launching a new advanced cardiac care initiative featuring patient and family educational resources.

Heart disease remains the number one cause of death in the United States[3], and exacts a disproportionate toll on many racial and ethnic groups that have higher rates of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and its risk factors.[4] In the midst of the pandemic, heart patients face increasing challenges. Cardiovascular complications contribute to roughly 40% of all COVID-19-related deaths[5]. Heart failure is at the forefront of these realities. Unfortunately, evidence indicates that heart failure (HF) patients often do not receive care that aligns with evidence-based best practices and that clinicians and patients are not aware of critical information and resources.[6]

“Too often, people with advanced cardiovascular diseases, including heart disease, heart failure and stroke, and their families are not made aware of how palliative care provides holistic support to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life,” said Nancy Brown, chief executive officer of the American Heart Association. “Emergency room and hospital visits take a substantial emotional and financial toll that can be averted with patient-centered care programs administered at home and at treatment centers from hospice and advanced illness providers.”

Palliative care provides holistic support to patients with stroke and other chronic conditions to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life. Hospice care is end-of-life care and is usually reserved for patients for whom most treatment options are no longer feasible. And like palliative care, hospice care also aims to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life.

Hospice and advanced illness providers provide quality primary care at home and at hospice treatment centers, even for those who are not terminal, helping to avert the multiple hospital and emergency room visits often associated with advanced heart disease over months or years.

“We need to close the gap for heart failure patients who can benefit from in-home hospice services,” said Tom Koutsoumpas, chief executive officer of NPHI. “Far too many die alone in the hospital or nursing facility when instead they could be cared for by our hospice teams wherever they reside and enjoy a far higher quality of life surrounded by loved ones.”

NPHI is an organization driven by passion and integrity to help people live fully through the end-of-life. The membership consists of more than 70 not-for-profit, community-based hospice, palliative, and advanced illness care providers across the country.

“Regarding advanced heart disease, people of color and the LBGTQ+ communities need to know in far greater numbers how NPHI-member organizations can provide comprehensive quality care at home- care which is covered by Medicare or private insurance or by us – NO ONE is turned away because they cannot pay,” said Cameron Muir, MD, chief innovation officer of NPHI. “Through the powerful collaboration of the American Heart Association and NPHI, we have developed simple, accessible resources that every family in America should know about and to help reduce the current devastating gaps in care.”

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