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Hospice offers many benefits
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While national surveys show the general public is often unaware of the hospice benefit available to them and their loved ones, cultural beliefs about death and dying also play a factor in delaying referring terminal patients to hospice.
In addition, physicians are frequently unaware of the criteria established by Medicare to qualify a patient for hospice referral.
All of these obstacles run counter to the benefits that patients and their families receive by early access to hospice. By explaining hospice, the criteria required for referral to the service, and the issues and myths surrounding hospice, you will help your readers evaluate if it could be an option for themselves or a loved one.
Physical, emotional and spiritual support is available to patients and their families at one of the toughest times they are likely to face - and hospice services are 100% covered by Medicare and most Medicaid and commercial insurances that helps to relieve the financial burden on many families.  
Early access key
The timing of hospice referral is very important for patients and their families.
Delaying referrals to hospice occurs for a number of reasons, according to Kevin S. Henning, MD, FAAFP, Southeast Regional Medical director for VistaCare.  “It’s difficult to convince family members that it is time to switch from one type of care to another,” Henning said. “Often families are conditioned by American and Western attitudes that they are going to fight until the end, when in reality that may be counterproductive and the patient may suffer more.  Families often see hospice as ‘giving up’, when in reality it can be a time for patients to receive better relief of their symptoms and have time to reconnect with loved ones and achieve emotional and spiritual peace.”
Henning also said physicians aren’t always aware of the specific criteria established by Medicare to qualify a patient for hospice referral.  And, even if they are aware of the criteria, sometimes they don’t think about their patient meeting the criteria for end-of-life services.
Finally, Henning sadid, “Doctors are human too and they don’t like to give bad news to the patient and family. When the patient and family are unaware of the prognosis, they are much more likely to continue aggressive treatment with the hope of a cure.”
He noted, “on the other hand, when patients are made aware of their prognosis they frequently choose palliative or hospice care in which the goal is to enhance comfort.”
Henning stresses the increased recognition of hospice as a subspecialty by the medical community.
“Being recognized as a subspecialty by the medical community means that there is an emerging group of health care providers who specialize in end-of-life care,” he said. “VistaCare is committed to elevating the hospice subspecialty in the public’s mind and to providing ongoing education about hospice services and the importance of early patient access to services.”

For more information about hospice eligibility or to meet the VistaCare hospice specialists, call 1-866-847-8222. To arrange an interview with Henning, contact Audrianne Schneider at (480) 648-8768 or via e-mail at
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