Hot Topics Stoke Discussion, Debate at NHPCO Conference

 In Preparing for the Future

What a difference a year makes! This year’s annual leadership conference for the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, renamed the Leadership & Advocacy Conference, was markedly different than prior conferences. The most palpable change – attendance was greater and more diverse than any other conference in memory. More men and people under 40 represented hospice and palliative care organizations, reflecting larger generational and workforce changes as well as increasing participation from men as owners, leaders and careworkers in provider organizations.

A variety of other themes threaded their way through topics in the spotlight (or hot seat) at the conference:

  • Person-centeredness moves to the center – From the pre-conference training sessions through conference presentations and cocktail conversations, attendees gave voice to the uniqueness of the IDG hospice model through the language of “person-centered care.” While hospice and palliative care workers have long been successful at meeting patients where they are, further improvements can be sparked by making sure team members are evaluating the patient experience through the patient’s Is your staff talking with patients and families in their language instead of clinical speak? Is your team starting the care experience by focusing on the patient’s goals, hopes, fears and the other specifics of their highly personal situation? Is everyone on your team actively listening to the patient’s and family’s points-of-view and tailoring your care and support in ways most fulfilling to them? The concept of person-centeredness should also extend beyond clinical care and into all aspects of the patient, family and hospice worker experience.
  • Payment model paranoia – No surprise, the pending Medicare Advantage Carve-In was by far the most controversial topic on the docket. While the National Association for Home Care & Hospice largely opposes the move, NHPCO has taken a more open stance. Time will tell who is right, but nonprofit community hospices are right to be cautious. They’re even wiser if they act to modernize their processes, technologies, culture and brand. All cylinders will have to be firing together, in complete sync, to deliver value-based care that meets the patient’s needs and wishes, with an operational model that still allows some margin from available reimbursements.
  • Marketing gets the respect it deserves – It’s been nearly 20 years since Hospice of Northwest Ohio launched their groundbreaking marketing campaign focused on families, but community-based marketing is finally getting the attention it deserves. Some of the best-attended sessions at the conference were on the topic of marketing, including a standing-room-only presentation by Transcend’s own Andrea Durfey and our client Lisa Novak, CEO of Northern Illinois Hospice. Lisa told the story of how her organization, in collaboration with the expertise of Transcend, renovated their brand, targeted family care decision makers, sharpened messaging to referrers and increased their visibility in the community – combining to boost referrals 18 percent, grow ADC 90 percent and raise total patient days 89 percent.
  • Stay tuned for quality’s quantum shift? – Quality professionals met up for their first-ever stand-alone breakout session. Quality continues to be compliance-focused in most organizations. However, if you take a chapter from Fortune 500 and acute care organizations, quality is its most valuable when working hand-in-glove with culture, process and communications, strengthening each aspect of the organization. Hopefully, quality and quality professionals follow the path of marketing before it – and at an accelerated pace – to command the level of respect and attention it deserves. After all, quality performance will be impacting reimbursement rates in the not-too-distant future. Several sessions at the conference focused on improving CAHPS scores and using data to evaluate better the impact of hospice and palliative care on providing measurably better care at lower costs.


Whether you attended this year’s Leadership & Advocacy Conference or not, do you relate to these issues, challenges and opportunities?