By Beth Noyce, RN, BSJMC, BCHH-C, COQS
CHAP-certified home health & hospice consultant

This is part 3 of the 3 in the series, outlining the discussions and implications in adopting new outcome and process measures for Hospice care. The final segment addresses future process and outcome measures that the board discussed, but did not yet implement. Read Part 1 on Outcome Measures and Part 2 on Process Measures.

The TEP discussed potential future process and outcome measure concepts that Abt Associates presented to the panel as well.

The process measures included:

  • Education for Medication Management
  • Wound Management Addressed in Plan of Care
  • Transfer of Health Information to Subsequent Provider
  • Transfer of Health Information to Patient/Family Caregiver

Hope-based outcome measures were:

  • Patient Preferences Followed throughout Hospice Stay
  • Hospitalization of Persons with Do-Not-Hospitalize Order

Developing education for medication management as a process measure was a popular concept, and the top priority of the recommended measures with the TEP as they “broadly agreed that CMS should develop this measure,” the report says, citing “a significant need for training in medication management for patients and their caregivers.” They recommended that the measure weigh more heavily when care is provided in a home setting than in a facility setting because hospices are unable to control facility training and hiring practices. One panelist commented that including the phrase “during today’s visit” in the measure is important.

Whether CMS should further develop the process measure addressing wound management in the plan of care was less straight-forward, as panelists provided varied feedback. They generally agreed that this measure is important, as having a record of wound management addressed in the plan of care can hold the staff accountable for treating the wounds. But some members recommended measuring wound management with outcome measures rather than process measures. One panelist cited potential problems from patients’ deterioration over time and another noted that the time frame of this measure is important, and encouraged recording the process of getting care in place once a wound is identified.  The panel agreed CMS should carefully define the measure’s specifications.

Because standard practice for most agencies is, when a patient is discharged live, to transfer health information to the subsequent provider and to the patient and family or caregiver, TEP members expressed that the two measures were likely to “top out,” meaning they would almost always be marked “Yes,” making them of no value in differentiating between hospice providers. The group generally discouraged developing these process measures.

The group strongly rejected any merit in developing two outcome measures concerning Patient Preferences Followed Throughout Hospice Stay and Hospitalization of Persons with Do-Not-

Hospitalize Order. The report says “Multiple TEP members described situations in which patients who had preferred not to be hospitalized changed their minds when a crisis occurred. Patients’ preferences and unexpected crises are usually out of the hospice’s control. Although it is still important for hospices to ask patients about their preferences as part of patient-centered care, the TEP did not believe these two items would be practical measures of a hospice’s care quality.”

Dr. McNally expects that Abt. Associates will apply the HQEP TEP’s suggestions to the HOPE tool.

“Oh yeah, they did it,” he says. “Abt would come to a specific meeting with information, data, suggestions, and specific information about how these things would be measured. We’d give feedback. Then they’d come back to the next meeting having incorporated our suggestions,” he explains. “All of us felt very much heard and responded to. It didn’t feel in the least bit perfunctory.”

Whatever specific measures are eventually included in the HOPE tool, Lund Person sees value in its implementation. “Hospice providers have had a woeful lack of outcome measures for hospice patients, which has made the evaluation of quality hospice care based only on process measures and the family’s evaluation of hospice care in the CAHPS® Hospice Survey, she explains. “Implementing HOPE will begin to identify outcome measures that can be compared between providers.”

Lund Person warns of potential challenges as well. “The selection of risk adjustment and stratification must be carefully done to minimize bias and maximize effectiveness of measures,” she says. “In addition, hospice providers have been awaiting the release of the HOPE tool with significant anxiety about content and administrative burden.”

Dr. McNally is confident the HOPE tool will be a healthy change for hospices.

“A lot of my role as a medical director and hospice physician is supporting our nurses,” he says. “They do 95% of the work. I really would like to see this not be burdensome for our hospice nurses. I’m looking forward to seeing what the [HOPE tool] beta testing translates to in our own hospice world.” He added “What I would hope to see is that the tool feels user-friendly to the hospice team, the people who have to use it, and that it also provides useful information to patients and families.”

NAHC’s Wehri says that standardizing processes through the HOPE tool is the key foundational element for the hospice industry. “High quality care is driven by reducing variance through standardized processes, Wehri writes. “Also, CMS will have a better idea of how the type of population a hospice serves impacts some of the clinical care.” This small glimpse into hospice variances that CMS does not currently have could be very helpful in future policy and payment decisions, according to Wehri. “What CMS finds in terms of differences between hospices and their care for patients may be a bit of a surprise to CMS,” she says.  “I hope they are pleasantly surprised with the overall quality of care that is revealed.”

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Beth Noyce provides education, consulting, mentoring, compliance assessments and auditing services to home health and hospice agencies and their clinicians in several states. She also now provides patient and family guidance concerning hospice and home health services. Beth loves teaching and helping others succeed. She also makes available recordings of much of her education for her clients’ convenience.

©2024 by The Rowan Report, Peoria, AZ. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared in Healthcare at Home: The Rowan Report. One copy may be printed for personal use: further reproduction by permission only.