Perspectives from the NHPCO Joint Board and Committee Meeting

Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting some leaders in the hospice and palliative care community during an NHPCO Joint Committee and Board Meeting in San Antonio, Texas.  While I was excited about the 15 degree weather difference and that good ole’ Texas beef and BBQ, I was also looking forward to meeting the individuals who I’ve been able to learn from during committee calls and associate names with faces.  Even though many of my interactions with these leaders were short, they were impactful, further educating me on the significance of this industry.

I spoke with people from all over the country who had completely different backgrounds, focuses, and experiences in hospice and palliative care, but behind all of those differences was one common theme – they all want greater patient access to hospice and palliative care and to ensure the sustainability of this industry in the healthcare universe.  During the Public Policy Committee Breakout Meeting, we discussed everything from eligibility changes, financial barriers, benefit structure, and staffing issues.  Although the meeting was long, our discussions never lacked intensity or passion.  It was clear that these leaders truly CARE.

Outside of formal discussions, I was able to have some short, eye-opening conversations with different members regarding their personal experiences in hospice and palliative care.  One committee member based in North Carolina expressed the impact the Rural Access to Hospice Act could have on rural communities. He jokingly told me a story about him and one of his physician friends who went hunting together.  They’d just crossed a county line and the committee member told the physician that the amount of doctors in the area had doubled.  There was only ONE – yes you read that right – ONE doctor that covered the entire county.  Imagine having an elderly family member who lives in a rural community with one doctor available within reach and that doctor cannot even provide hospice care due to regulatory barriers.  Of course, I understand the significance of the Rural Access to Hospice Act, but this story helped me understand the magnitude of this issue.  Another Public Policy Committee Member has no background in hospice or palliative care outside of personal experience and volunteer work.  She’s retired, but told me that one of her parents was on hospice care, and that encouraged her to volunteer at her local hospice.  She also told me that she now feels better equipped to handle dying and death, because of her encounters with hospice.  It’s amazing to know that hospice had such a profound impact on someone’s life, that they would devote their time to it, even after they’ve retired.

This meeting showed me just how diverse this industry is and how that diversity contributes to its overall success.  I’m so happy to know that these are the type of people who are leading the discussion and fighting for better, quality end of life care and I’m excited about what this year has in store!

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