Physicians and Hospice: A Partnership for Patients

With the VITAS app, referrals are quick, secure and simple.

Your patients depend on your guidance in making some of the most important healthcare decisions they will ever make. Shouldn’t you partner with a hospice provider that has a proven record of delivering the highest-quality clinical, spiritual and emotional support services?

Hospice as Part of Your Continuum of Care

VITAS' hospice services are specially designed to supplement the high level of care attending physicians and clinical staff bring to their patients. Our staff actively monitors and manages changes/declines in your patient’s condition.

VITAS: Your Care Transitions Expert

In addition to facilitating seamless patient transitions, conducting medication reconciliation, helping to reduce avoidable rehospitalizations and ED visits and helping optimize HEDIS® and CAHPS® scores, VITAS provides patients with:

  • Expert medical care, pain and symptom management and emotional and spiritual support
  • In-home hospice care, whether home is a private residence, nursing facility or assisted living community
  • An average of five-plus visits per patient per week by a member of VITAS’ interdisciplinary hospice team
  • 24-hour access to VITAS staff via VITAS Care Connection Centers
  • Shifts of continuous care in the patient’s home when medically appropriate until symptoms are under control
  • Delivery of all home medical equipment, medications and supplies that pertain to the terminal illness
  • Bereavement support for the family by VITAS staff for up to 13 months

When is the Right Time to Refer a Patient to Hospice?

Physicians can partner with VITAS

Hospice care is most beneficial when it is provided for months, rather than weeks or days. In addition to managing pain and symptoms, hospice can enable a meaningfully longer and better quality of life. The added time offers an opportunity to address spiritual needs as well as financial, practical and relational matters.

Our expert care is often exactly what is needed for patients who:

  • Have unmet pain needs
  • Make frequent emergency room visits for the same symptoms or condition
  • Have been in an ICU without improvement
  • Have been readmitted to the hospital within 30 days for the same condition

Disease-Specific Guidelines for Hospice Eligibility

A cancer patient who may be ready for hospice services does not look like a patient with end-stage COPD. Their signs of clinical decline are very different.

VITAS provides hospice eligibility guidelines for the most frequent diagnoses. You’ll find them in our mobile app and links to our website content, below:

  • ALS—Two factors are critical in determining prognosis: ability to breathe and ability to swallow.
  • Alzheimer’s and dementia—When your patients can no longer move around, get dressed, bathe or speak, they may be eligible for hospice care.
  • COPD and lung disease—Look for dyspnea at rest or with minimal exertion.
  • Heart disease—Characteristics include NYHA Class III or IV.
  • HIV and AIDS—Your patient has low CD4 counts and decreased performance on the KPS scale.
  • Liver disease—Look for persistent symptoms of hepatic failure.
  • Oncology—The biggest predictor is your patient’s functional status on the ECOG scale or PPS.
  • Renal disease—Any patient who does not choose rehabilitative dialysis is eligible.
  • Sepsis and concomitant end-state disease—Any patient with advanced illness and a clinical complication of sepsis is eligible.

Contact us to learn how VITAS can help you care for your patient.

Your Responsibility as the Attending Physician

AT VITAS, we give you the opportunity to be as involved in the end of life care of your patients depending upon your availability—attending or following.

VITAS care plans are dependent upon the attending physician’s approval. If you refer a patient to hospice who then designates you the attending physician, you can retain control and bill for care you provide related to the terminal diagnosis.

As the attending physician for the patient(s) you refer to VITAS for hospice services, you are an integral member of our interdisciplinary team, which has overall responsibility for managing and providing hospice care to these patients.

To provide hospice care to your patients, VITAS must obtain, at the time a patient is admitted to hospice care, a certification that, based on your clinical expertise, the patient's prognosis is for a life expectancy of six months or less if the terminal illness runs its normal course.

As the attending physician, you are jointly responsible with the VITAS physician and interdisciplinary team for establishing, reviewing and updating your patient's plan of care. You will be consulted regularly regarding your patient's hospice plan of care and are encouraged to participate in VITAS' interdisciplinary team meetings.

Don’t Delay Hospice Because of a Patient’s Financial Concerns

The Medicare Hospice Benefit covers 100 percent of the cost of care related to a patient’s terminal illness. In most states, Medicaid also will provide hospice coverage, as do most private insurance plans.

Get the PDF: The Medicare Hospice Benefit