I recently visited my new physician, Dr. Randi Protter, at R-Health, which provides a new model of care — called Direct Primary Care — that could improve patient outcomes while also reducing costs. The state, seeking ways to reduce costs, began this model for people covered by the State Health Benefits Program (state and local government employees, their families and retirees).

My husband has been a state employee for 25 years so our family is eligible. Here’s how it works. R-Health receives a flat payment per month for each member. The doctors have only about half as many patients as the typical primary care physician. Dr. Protter spent nearly an hour with me taking a full medical history, conducting a thorough medical examination, asking lots of questions, discussing wellness, vitamins and vaccinations, and taking notes on a laptop while still making eye contact. I signed up for R-Health’s protected health communication app and put Dr. Protter’s phone number into my favorites list.  She insisted that I call or contact her through the app directly anytime I needed anything.

Any time, I asked. Yes, any time, she said.

I went home and had a follow-up question and messaged her through the app. She got right back to me. No answering service or endless holding or transfers. She also told me that I could use the app wherever I am. Let’s say I am on a business trip and have an issue.  She will see me over the phone through the app and can write me a prescription to be picked up anywhere in the U.S. or Canada. My sons who are away at college and are also R-Health patients have that same option, which is a relief for a parent.

The model can reduce health costs because physicians who are easily accessible and who know their patients well are less likely to have their patients turn to the emergency room for issues that are not true emergencies. Coordinated care, especially for older patients or those with chronic conditions, can keep people healthy and out of the hospital. And with this model, there’s no incentive for physicians to order unnecessary tests or procedures.

My Direct Primary Care experience, so far, gives me everything I am looking for in a provider — as a health care policy expert and, more important, as a patient. But as I share my story, I feel as if I am letting you all in on a secret.  To date, not much has been done to let people covered by the State Health Benefits Program know about Direct Primary Care. And if few people sign up, the new model of care will fail.

The state created this model because they have hopes Direct Primary Care will be popular with patients and contain health care costs. We need to explore new models of care. But we will never know if this model — or any other model — will work if people don’t know about them and sign up. We will never know if the state does not do more to publicize the model.

So tell a friend to tell a friend. Share this blog and the link to learn more about the state’s Direct Primary Care model.

Paul G. Vidal, PT, DPT, is president of the American Physical Therapy Association of New Jersey, APTANJ.

You have said we are experiencing an epidemic of chronic pain. How do you see the connection to the current opioid crisis?

Almost nine in 10 Americans suffer from pain at some point in their lives. About 50 million to about 75 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, reaching epidemic proportions. The reasons for this are many and can be complex.  When over-the counter-medication no longer works, people want something stronger.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 249 million prescriptions for opioid pain medication were written by healthcare providers in 2013, enough for every American adult to have one bottle of pills!  Across the country, more than 40 people die each day due to overdoses from prescription opioids.

Some physical therapists are working collaboratively with mental health providers. How does that work?

There are some physical therapists who treat patients at psychiatric hospitals.  As an association, we’re working to strengthen our relationship with mental health providers. We’re scheduled to present at the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies Fall Behavioral Healthcare meeting in October.

In mental health centers, there are patients who are being treated for addiction as well as for pain. Physical therapy is part of their overall treatment.

No one discipline can fix the opioid crisis alone. We’re working with mental health providers and educating them about the cross over value of physical therapy and how we should be working together to treat the whole person.  In addition to the physical benefits, we know exercise can have a positive effect on mental health. Exercise is a large part of physical therapy and can reduce stress and anxiety, depression, and help people sleep better and improve cognitive function.

Physical therapists offer a safe and effective, non-pharmacological form of pain relief.  Physical therapists are an integral part of a multi-disciplinary, collaborative solution to battle the opioid crisis.

You’ve talked about the loop of care that causes health costs for pain to skyrocket. Can you explain that?

Utilization studies have found that the longer a referral to physical therapy takes the higher the total health care cost. Delayed referral to physical therapy for pain often can lead to prescriptions of opioid medications and a string of imaging tests, injections and referrals to other specialists. The cost skyrockets. Some of these things may be necessary, but research shows that a referral to a physical therapist early on can help the individual and reduce the total health care cost.

People generally see a physical therapist after being referred by a physician. But many people in New Jersey don’t know they can call directly to get an appointment and treatment with a physical therapist. How does that work?

Since 2003, New Jersey consumers have direct access to physical therapy services. This means that you can see a physical therapist directly without a physician’s prescription, although some patients may have some insurance requirements to meet, such as getting a referral from their primary care physician’s office.  It’s important for people to know they have direct access to a physical therapist and that physical therapist works collaboratively with other health care providers to ensure the best possible outcome for patients. Whether it’s direct access or physician referred, getting people moving sooner rather than later can be of great benefit and potentially avoid opioid medication and other costlier procedures. So I would stress early access to a physical therapist.

So where will we see you on a sunny afternoon when you are not working?

You’ll find me out biking and enjoying the day with my wife and two daughters. If I am not with my family, I am playing golf or doing Crossfit in the gym. My outlets are things I enjoy. I believe you have to walk the walk and be a good role model for patients.

Published on Return on Information New Jersey by Anjalee Khemlani..

Is the much-touted value-based reimbursement model, in which providers get paid for care of a patient rather than per procedure, working?

It’s a question the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Innovation Center is asking the public.

CMS has been the driver of the preventative care model, but is seeking a less top-down approach to health care cost curbing, according to New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute CEO and President Linda Schwimmer.

The timing is an interesting one for the state and the country. New Jersey is waiting for a new governor and the country is currently watching what happens to yet another Affordable Care Act replacement proposal.

The issue is an important one for New Jersey, which benefitted in some ways under the ACA — uninsured numbers are at historic lows, in part due to Medicaid expansion, and the number of insured patients has given a boost to the provider sector.

But the ultimate goal of lowering the cost of health care in all areas of the industry — including providers, health plans and life sciences — is yet to be fully realized.

New Jersey was recently chosen as one of three states, through the NJHCQI, to participate in a pilot program to track and score the payment reforms happening in the state, and how effective they are.

Catalyst for Payment Reform, a nonprofit corporation working to improve the quality of health care while also reducing costs, has previously worked with New York and Pennsylvania, Schwimmer said.

It has been working on scorecards to track health costs since 2013, and is now focused on value-based models through the new pilot program.

“Alternative payment models were created to better align the way we pay for health care with the outcomes we want for our health,” Schwimmer said in a recent statement. “The scorecard will report on the kinds of payment models that are being implemented in New Jersey and how they are working to improve outcomes and lower costs. We hope they are doing both.”

New Jersey likely showed up on CPR’s radar because of a relationship through the Leapfrog Group’s founding CEO, Suzanne Delbanco, Schwimmer said.

The HCQI’s former CEO and president, David Knowlton, served on Leapfrog’s board for several years.

Schwimmer said she has notified all insurers in the state about the pilot program, and will formally approach them to partner on the project.

Currently, Aetna, AmeriHealth New Jersey, Amerigroup, Cigna, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, UnitedHealthcare and Wellcare have been notified. Oscar Health, which announced it is re-entering the state with a focus on health insurance for employers in 2018, has not yet been notified, according to Schwimmer.

The HCQI will not be receiving any funding for the program, but hopes it leads to either legislative or state-level transformation. The pilot program for CPR is being funded by grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

Delbanco, in a statement, said: “We selected the Quality Institute because of the organization’s independence and its history of creating and executing initiatives that drive improvements in health care quality and help to contain costs. We are excited to partner with the Quality Institute on this pioneering effort and hope it will support efforts toward better, more affordable health care for the citizens of New Jersey.”

Results are expected in August 2018.

Continuum will support the growth of Mid-Atlantic’s largest private hospitalist group

Marlton, NJ – September 12, 2017 – Adfinitas Health, the largest private hospitalist group in the Mid-Atlantic region, has selected Continuum Health, a value-based care strategy and management company, as their revenue cycle management partner in advance of a planned expansion outside of their core region. Adfinitas currently serves over 50 healthcare sites of service – both hospitals and post-acute care centers around the Mid-Atlantic region – delivering high-quality, cost-effective integrated medical and advisory services. The company recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary in January, marking a decade of strong growth and unwavering commitment to optimizing value for patients and clients.

“Continuum’s expertise, proven track record, and ability to support customer success in a complex healthcare environment made them our clear choice as we sought a new partner,” said Eric Nass, President of Adfinitas Health. “Our firm is poised for significant growth outside of our current footprint and we needed a strong revenue cycle management partner to support our expansion goal. Hospitalists are one of the largest medical specialties and we are excited to help advance this field, with a clear focus on delivering better quality, clinical outcomes, and patient satisfaction.”

“Adfinitas Health represents the very best of healthcare,” said Peter Bailey, CEO of Continuum Health. “They have built an excellent reputation and a proven track record of being a true partner to their clients. We’re very pleased by the opportunity to support the Adfinitas team as they expand their organization and venture further into value-based care opportunities.”

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About Continuum Health

As a management services organization (MSO), Continuum Health delivers proven solutions to provider groups and aggregators, helping foster self-sufficiency by maximizing fee-for-service payments, transitioning them to value-based programs and preparing them for risk. Continuum also collaborates with payers to help drive value-based adoption among providers and improve the health outcomes of patients. The company optimizes performance through revenue cycle management, value-based care, practice management services and specialty care solutions. More than 1,500 primary care physicians, specialists and nurse practitioners caring for more than 1 million patients depend on Continuum’s business and clinical experts to help achieve their goals. Learn more at www.continuumhealth.net.

Please click here to read more.

Published by Michael L. Diamond in the Asbury Park Press.

Dr. Jason Nehmad needs help.

A primary care doctor, he sees four patients an hour. He takes 10 minutes for lunch. He is paying off more than $200,000 in student loans. And his colleagues are retiring in waves.

“It’s getting worse and worse,” said Nehmad, 35.

New Jersey is trying to combat a shortage of primary care doctors, starting new residency programs, building a new medical school and searching for options that can ease doctors’ workload.

It is scrambling as Obamacare prods consumers to see a primary care doctor each year and take preventive steps that will avoid costly illnesses down the road. The idea is a core tenet of the Affordable Care Act.

But putting it into practice hasn’t been easy. In Ocean County, for example, there are 2,140 residents for every primary care doctor, far worse than the statewide ratio of 1,170:1, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a Plainsboro-based charitable organization that studies health care.

“Primary care doctors are really the first piece of prevention in terms of our health,” said Toni Lewis, a coach with the foundation who works with communities to improve population health. “It’s important to have access to primary care doctors so people can stay healthy.”

From business to medicine

Nehmad works for Hackensack Meridian Health and has his own practice in Jackson.

He didn’t always want to be a doctor. He grew up in Brooklyn and went to Yeshiva University in New York City, where he studied business and economics.

But he wanted to give back. So after his sophomore year, he went to Israel and worked as a paramedic. He liked the intensity and the idea of helping people. When he returned, he switched to pre-med.

Nehmad applied to U.S. medical schools, but didn’t get in, turning to the American University of Antigua College of Medicine, one of a handful of medical schools in the Caribbean whose students complete the same course work and pass the same medical boards as their American counterparts.

After four years of medical school, Nehmad did his three-year residency program at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, settling on primary care instead of a specialty.

“I gravitated toward it,” he said. “There wasn’t a specific thing that attracted me enough to go into it. If you’re going to go into it, you’re going to do that for the next 35, 40 years of your life and just that. I liked a little bit of everything and not just one thing, so I thought primary was the best option.”

“Plus,” he said, “there was a huge demand in the area.”

Nehmad completed his residency in 2013, and his timing was perfect. Obamacare not only expanded insurance coverage, but also it envisioned primary care doctors as coaches who would manage their patients’ health over the long haul.

Insurance plans reflect that. They offer preventive care — screening for depression, tobacco use, obesity, diabetes and so on — without requiring a co-payment.

Supply and demand

But the supply of primary care doctors hasn’t kept up with the demand, particularly in more rural areas of the state.

Ocean Health Initiatives has seen the impact. The organization has five clinics in Ocean County, mainly giving Medicaid patients access to primary care. It treated 26,555 patients last year, a 10 percent increase from 2015.

And its future is shaky. Congress has yet to approve funding that is scheduled to run out at the end of the month.

“It’s difficult to hire primary care physicians,” said Warren Sherard, vice president of operations for Ocean Health Initiatives. “The H.R. department is pulling their hair out all the time to get doctors in the door.”

The shortage isn’t affecting everyone. Monmouth County has 890 primary care doctors for every resident, better than even the top-performing counties nationwide, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

But it, too, might feel an upcoming pinch. Primary care doctors from the massive baby boom generation are nearing retirement.

New Jersey will need an additional 1,116 primary care physicians by 2030, a 17 percent increase from 2010, according to a report by the Robert Graham Center, a Washington, D.C., lobby group.

The reason might be as simple as money. In New Jersey, general practice doctors in 2016 made on average $183,410; surgeons made on average $286,710, or 56 percent more, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And Ciminelli, who is the director of the family medicine residency program at CentraState in Freehold Township, said less than half of her residents have stayed in New Jersey after they graduate.

“For many of them, it’s because they can make up to $100,000 more going to practice in other states,” she said. “They’re being offered bonuses, sign-on bonuses and opportunities for loan redemption. Those are big factors.”

Looking for doctors

Medical schools and hospital networks are trying to increase the supply of primary care doctors.

Nehmad’s medical school, the American University of Antigua College of Medicine, graduated 241 students in June. And it routinely attracts a higher number of students who want to go into primary care, said Neal Simon, the school’s president and co-founder.

Meanwhile, New Jersey’s two biggest hospital networks are aligning with medical schools in what they hope will be a boost to primary care.

Hackensack Meridian Health is planning to open a medical school at Seton Hall University in South Orange next year. And one of its hospitals, Ocean Medical Centerin Brick, is starting a residency program with a focus on primary care, said James Clarke, vice president of primary care at Hackensack Meridian.

“The real opening, I believe, is, here I am training in another state and I get comfortable for three years. And you say, ‘I should probably live here,'” Clarke said. “That’s what we’re trying to obtain: doing these kinds of commitments for residency throughout the system.”

RWJBarnabas Health and Rutgers University said this summer they would form a partnership to give medical school graduates more options to set up their practice in the Garden State.

Until now, “we haven’t had an … approach where the entire health system is aligned and working together,” said Vincente Gracias, a senior vice chancellor at Rutgers.

That might take years to pay off. For now, providers are trying to ease the burden on primary care doctors by opening urgent care centers and clinics in pharmacies; steering patients to physician assistants, nurse practitioners and social workers.

And they’re being creative. Ocean Health Initiatives opened wellness programs at Lakewood High School and Clifton Avenue Elementary School in Lakewood. The school nurse, who once treated students only when they got sick, now focuses on prevention with students and their families.

“Primary care is in the driver’s seat with all these models,” said Linda Schwimmer, president and chief executive officer for New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, an advocacy group.

For Nehmad, the backup can’t come fast enough.

He scarcely has time to take a breath between seeing patients at Jersey Shore University Medical Center and his practice in Jackson, knowing he could book patients around the clock.

“You’re exhausted,” Nehmad said, before checking up on a patient at the hospital who was recovering from a stroke. “But, no, I wouldn’t do anything else.”

I tuned in to watch the recent senate hearings on the actions Congress should take to stabilize the individual insurance market — and I saw something as rare as the solar eclipse: a thoughtful, bipartisan discussion on health care that focused on solutions, not polemics.

Governors and Insurance Commissioners from blue states and red states talked about ways to stabilize the marketplace so their constituents could obtain health insurance. Local and political differences were respected, but at the same time, the basic rules of how insurance works were acknowledged and agreed upon. Smart ideas emerged and New Jersey’s leaders should listen.

Urgency exists. Insurers only have until September 27 to finalize their plans if they are going to offer health insurance through the exchanges. What’s at stake? Nothing less than the stability of the marketplace and the ability of many people in our state to obtain affordable health insurance.

At the hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and ranking member Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., voiced support for some of the same ideas — ideas that I believe are greatly needed.

Here they are:

Give states an easier path to set up reinsurance programs

Right now states can apply for a “section 1332 waiver” to re-tool their individual marketplaces. But the process is cumbersome, takes state legislative action, and involves at least a six-month review process at the federal level.  Some states started the process awhile ago and are creating reinsurance programs to lower the overall costs of premiums in their marketplace.  The senators would like to streamline the process for states and that’s good news.

New Jersey could set up a reinsurance program so that all medical claims above a certain threshold, say $100,000, would be paid mostly by a federally funded reinsurance program. Taking the most expensive claims out of the equation would lower premiums for everyone in the market.  The lower premiums would then bring more people into the marketplace and further improve its health. New Jersey can, and should, crunch the numbers and design a reinsurance program that makes sense for us and apply for a section 1332 waiver.  Meanwhile, Congress must pass legislation to simplify the process.

Fund cost sharing payments

The committee members agreed that Congress should pass a bill to fund the cost sharing payments that provide help with out-of-pocket expenses for people with incomes below 250 percent of the poverty line. These payments keep premiums down for the most price sensitive people in the marketplace, who on average are also healthier.  They help keep the market stable. Otherwise, people with medical conditions will be the ones most willing to pay high premiums and high out-of-pocket costs. To work, insurance needs a mix of young and old, healthy and sick.

Congress must find the political will to improve the ACA. The clock is ticking. The glimpse of bipartisan cooperation and practical solutions that I saw at the committee hearings is the right place to start.

Ana Lòpez-DeFede, PhD, is Director of the Division of Medicaid Policy Research at the University of South Carolina Institute for Families in Society. Dr. Lopez-DeFede, at a recent Medicaid 2.0 work group, explained how her state uses Medicaid data to improve health quality.

Your organization is contracted by South Carolina’s Medicaid program to produce a website and usable information on cost and utilization data. What makes your state unique in how you share Medicaid data? 

We’ve been working with Medicaid since 1997 and have their data and an extensive history of working with it. For South Carolina, transparency is important and so is the ability of the average person to access the data. We really wanted a platform that would be accessible and easy-to-use for an individual conducting research, local planners or, say, a state legislator who wanted to understand the Medicaid population in his or her district. People can get data even over a period of multiple years at our website.

What kind of data do you share and how is the information being used?

 We present the data in different categories, such as Medicaid enrollment, and benefits and services. You can examine these categories by geography, age, or whether someone is in a Medicaid managed care plan or not. You could determine how Medicaid impacts one specific area of the state. You could find the number of in-patient hospital visits by age group. You could compare Medicaid managed care versus fee-for-service as it relates to ER visits or hospitalizations. We also provide information on quality improvement initiatives, health care reform and health disparities.  A good example is birth outcomes where an infographic shows the gains made as a result of the state’s Birth Outcomes Initiative. Users can see the patterns around low birth weight and read a very quick summary to understand the gains made and where there is a need for further improvement. The data is easily interpreted.

How could Medicaid data be valuable to a state such as New Jersey?

For New Jersey, one of the important things would be to make the data easy to use.  You can look at categories such as how many Medicaid recipients are blind or disabled. People who might want this information may not know the Medicaid codes and categories so you need to make the data easy to interpret. An agency or organization could see where the needs are and then see where there are gaps in services. The data make it easier to understand what the issues are across the state — and how to translate that knowledge into action.

Who is using the data?

 On a monthly basis, we have several thousand people accessing our data. … Let’s say I am a state legislator. I could look at my district and understand the percentage of people who are on Medicaid and how that breaks down in terms of race, ethnicity —and how that compares to another geographic area. If I am a juvenile judge, and I am interested in behavioral health services for juveniles, I might want to look at Medicaid providers offering behavioral health services in my area. We try to provide an understanding of the uninsured population in the state. We are a non-expansion state. We can provide information about who would be eligible under expansion and who would not. A United Way or free clinic could hone in on where the services are needed. Our goal is to be transparent and provide user-friendly data and maps.

What do you see as the biggest success and lessons learned in South Carolina?

The biggest overall recognition the state has received is on the platform and the usability of the data. Our feedback from users is that they are pleased by what they can do. If anything, they want more information and more updates. We’ve learned to be flexible and to continually update things and provide story maps and info graphics. We’ve discovered that our data is not only valuable for people in South Carolina but we have folks from all over the country looking at this data. You can use our data without any special software.

As I mentioned, we’ve used the data to examine infant mortality and low birth weight babies. You can add a graphic layer showing where the ob-gyn providers are and you can look at age groups and whether the mothers with low birth weight babies had access to prenatal care. You can find the “hot spots,” these areas with high numbers of low birth weight babies and low numbers of ob-gyns. Suddenly you have a picture. You can provide better care in these geographic areas and positively impact the circumstances associated with poor outcomes.

Published by Lilo H. Stainton on NJ Spotlight.

Despite widespread wishes to die at home, research shows Garden State residents are more likely than many Americans to spend parts of their final months in the hospital, receiving costly and questionably necessary treatments that do little to improve their quality of life.

To help shift this trend, New Jersey officials will spend $5 million this year to develop a comprehensive state model for end-of-life care, develop education and training protocols for healthcare providers, and study the impact of hospice placement on patients’ experience. There also are online tools now available that make it possible to compare hospice programs.

State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen) joined former Sen. Kevin O’Toole (R-Bergen), who now serves as chairman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and leaders from Holy Name Medical Center at the Villa Marie Claire hospice in Saddle River to announce the special funding late last month. Villa Marie is the only Garden State hospice facility associated with an acute-care hospital (Holy Name, in Teaneck).

Last wishes

There has been growing focus in recent years on helping seniors and terminally ill patients ensure their wishes for end-of-life care are made clear to both family and healthcare providers, who are conditioned to doing what they can to save lives.

The New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute has worked with local communities to host a program called “Conversations of Your Life,” designed to prompt these tough discussions. In April, Villa Marie served as a backdrop for the rollout of the state’s new electronic Practitioner Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (or POLST) initiative, through which patients’ wishes are filed in a database that can be accessed by first responders, hospital staff, and other providers anywhere in the state.

And when three of the state’s most powerful healthcare players — the Medical Society of New Jersey, New Jersey Hospital Association, and New Jersey Association of Health Plans — joined with Seton Hall University to create a leadership academy in December, the first issue on the agenda was improving end-of-life care.

The new project to develop a hospice model also involves the Medical Society and seeks to create a system for state providers that better honors patient wishes and doesn’t squander critical resources.

“We believe that creating a standard for the appropriate use of end-of-life-care resources, introduced at the appropriate time, will result in a reduction in state and federal costs stemming from unnecessary hospital admissions, ER visits, procedures, tests, and treatment,” Sarlo said. “Of course, the most important goal we’re working towards is better quality of life for New Jersey residents and their families.”

Added to the budget

The money for the hospice model was not included in Gov. Chris Christie’s original budget proposal for fiscal year 2018, which began in July, but was added by Sarlo, the Senate budget chairman, and other Democratic leaders who drafted the legislation during the spring. The award then survived the series of strained negotiations that shut down the government for several days in early July before state officials came to agreement on a $34.7 billion spending plan.

The New Jersey Home Care and Hospice Association serves nearly 40,000 terminally ill Garden State residents annually in a variety of settings, including private homes, group residences, nursing homes, and dozens of dedicated hospice facilities. But studies show these individuals often get to hospice too late, after enduring expensive and unnecessary hospital treatments that may extend their life, but do little to enable them to enjoy that extra time.

According to the Dartmouth Atlas Project’s latest report, “Our Parents, Ourselves: Health Care for an Aging Population,” released earlier this year, Medicare patients in the New York City and New Jersey area spend more time receiving healthcare than seniors elsewhere in the nation; an average of 18 to 25 days of treatment per year.

Highest rate of intensive care

The region also had the highest rates of intensive-care use among Medicare patients, with seniors in most of the state spending an average of 4.3 to 9 days in an ICU within their final six months. In addition, a high number of patients with dementia were fed through a tube near the end — meaning efforts to help them eat normally had failed — and as many as 18 percent of Medicare patients were taking risky medications in their final months.

The Dartmouth Atlas also revealed a high number of Medicare patients who died were transferred to hospice in the last three days of their life, too late for them to gain the true benefits of a palliative-care system that is focused on keeping them comfortable. In the southern half of New Jersey, at least one in five seniors were enrolled in hospice near the end, and between 13.3 and 17.4 percent were referred late in the northern portion of the state.

“One of the most important healthcare reforms our state must address is improving care for New Jersey patients in the final chapters of their lives,” said Michael Maron, president and CEO of Holy Name, noting that he was proud to lead this project at Villa Marie.

“We know that while life-extending care and other medical treatments may lengthen life, it may be at the expense of quality of life,” Maron added. “Our goal is to help patients and families understand the difference and maximize the moments they share in their final months, weeks, days, or hours together.”

The project has eight key initiatives, Sarlo and O’Toole said, including developing a model for end-of-life care that includes goals and actions that stretch from two years before a person’s death to a year after their passing. It also involves developing education, training, and a state certification process for doctors, nurses, social workers, and other healthcare professionals.

In addition, the project calls for comparing the patient outcomes and experience for those enrolled in hospice with the results of those who die in hospitals or at home. The work could lead to a series of additional policy recommendations, they said.

“The conversation about end-of-life care is an important one that all families need to be having and that our policymakers need to address,” O’Toole said.  “This funding supports the full spectrum of end-of-life care, encompassing the patient, family, caregiver, provider, and community.”