Contessa Palliative Care: Bringing Care at Home Full-Circle
Grappling with a serious or complex illness can be a challenge at any age, and that’s even harder when you’re managing it alone. Unfortunately, many care models overlook palliative services or engage with them only at the end of life. Health care teams often consider palliative care engagement as giving up on helping their patients. Yet, when engaged with palliative care earlier in their journeys, data shows patients experience a higher quality of life and often live longer.
Palliative care, a medical specialty focused on maintaining or improving quality of life, is often the supportive care patients with chronic conditions need. Nearly 70 percent of all Medicare costs are related to people living with four or more chronic conditions, which is typical for palliative care patients. In managing these issues, it’s common for people to meet and work with dozens of doctors over a relatively short span of time, often leading to fragmented, uncoordinated care.
Understanding Palliative Care
Unlike hospice care, palliative care is not associated with any one specific symptom or health issue. It’s designed for people with an advanced illness that is unlikely to resolve itself and is often added to a care plan at the time an issue is diagnosed, a complement to many of the conditions Contessa typically treats for a hospital or skilled nursing stay at home.
We recently implemented palliative care at home for this very reason. Contessa’s unique model allows our care teams to identify patients sooner in their journey, intervene promptly, and provide integrated systemic care management. “Though referrals most often occur in the hospital or primary care provider office today, we’re also able to identify situations well-suited for palliative care sooner by treating patients in their homes,” said Jenn Booker, Vice President of Palliative Care Programs at Contessa. “This is the place where they usually begin managing their illness.”
Unique Value of Palliative Care
Our provider teams help prevent crisis situations and reduce stress by having important conversations about care plans, ensuring patients and their inner circle are aligned on goals for the next steps of care. “During a time of high emotion, many patients and families appreciate someone who can help bring order to the chaos,” Booker said. “Taking the time to get to know people and their families offers the personal touch needed for this type of care.” Through an integrated team, Contessa’s palliative care services provide calm, consistent support, and assist in navigating the ever-changing nature of this period in life.
While most doctor appointments last about 10 to 15 minutes, with a Contessa clinician, most initial home visits can be up to 90 minutes long, with follow-up visits around 30 to 45 minutes. As a result, Contessa clinicians enjoy the time they get to build relationships and gain a longitudinal view of the patient’s life and health. “When we deliver care in the comfort of the patient’s home, even through video, we take time to get to know the patient and their family, establishing a real connection and gaining a truer glimpse of how they live and what matters most to them,” Booker said.
Palliative Support As a Part of the Broader Continuum
With Contessa’s full continuum of care meeting patients in their homes, everyone from providers to patients and their families encounter a smoother, more integrated care experience. “By partnering with Amedisys, we can now scale our integrated model to a national level and provide a full continuum of home-based care to patients, from personal services and home health to palliative and hospice,” Booker said.
Most significantly, with critical thinking and a kind heart, we incorporate these details into a care plan uniquely tailored to our patients. As a patient’s care journey progresses, Contessa can provide continuity of care while helping maintain daily routines, improving quality of life, and adjusting in response to changing needs. What’s more patient-centered than bringing the care people need most, at a time they need it the most, to the place they want it most?