Emmanuel Hospice now providing enhanced care for advanced heart failure patients

By Emmanuel Hospice

Here’s a sobering statistic: On average, only about 50% of heart failure patients who qualify for hospice care are enrolled in a program.

Emmanuel Hospice has stepped forward to improve that average and provide enhanced care for that population. The nonprofit provider of hospice care is one of just 31 in the nation among the 4,600-plus Medicare-certified hospices now formally qualified to provide these services to patients with advanced heart disease.

“When we see a need, it’s our nature to fill it, especially if it means helping people who are hurting,” said Sara Lowe, executive director of Emmanuel Hospice. “By collaborating with a national hospice organization aligned with the prestigious American Heart Association, we’re now in a prime position to provide the latest in hospice care to patients with serious cardiac issues.”

Emmanuel launched its Heart & Soul Advanced Cardiac Care Program in April 2021 through the National Partnership for Healthcare and Hospice Innovation, or NPHI. That organization collaborates with the American Heart Association to bring together national and community partners committed to reducing the use of emergency services and hospitalizations, and to increase in-home care for people with advanced heart disease.

The goal of the Advanced Cardiac Care Program is to encourage families and caregivers to reach out sooner to seek care. Awareness of and access to hospice care services can help manage or prevent breathing difficulties, fatigue and other worsening symptoms associated with cardiovascular disease, and provide better quality of life for patients and families.

“This allows us to build relationships with cardiologists and other cardio-centric providers, thanks to our enhanced collaborations and training,” said Melissa Schmidt, Emmanuel’s director of clinical services.

Mike Zandstra, a social worker with Emmanuel, added: “It’s especially valuable to cardiac patients who have tried all the treatment processes and methods and might not have known where to turn next. It’s a way to connect with people who typically have not sought palliative care soon enough.”

Emmanuel is investing time and resources to reach out to cardiologists and cardiovascular-based clinics so more doctors and patients become familiar with this treatment option.

“Anytime I’m going into a care or treatment facility where cardiac patients might be, I’m carrying guidebooks with me and am otherwise ready and willing to spread the word about what Emmanuel is now capable of providing,” Zandstra said.

The program relies on guidelines developed by NPHI and the American Heart Association, and those are shared in widespread ways with Emmanuel staff – “from the people who answer our phones to every clinician in the field,” says Schmidt. “At our very core, we are a team, and that is reflected in how we now administrate this program.”

Schmidt and Zandstra emphasize the newly announced collaboration is long overdue because even though heart disease is the nation’s No. 1 cause of death and touches virtually every household in America, hundreds of thousands of heart failure patients die alone in hospitals, never reaching out to embrace hospice care.

“The average lifespan of a patient discharged from the hospital with heart failure is three years, and a significant number of these die without the added support of a hospice program in place,” Schmidt noted. “Our intention is to change that.”

More information is available at: EmmanuelHospice.org/Cardiac-Program