Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah Releases Findings on the Importance of a Holistic Approach to Palliative Care

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SALT LAKE CITY (November 16, 2015) – November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month and Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah is doing its part to help educate and inform its members and the community about this much needed, yet little understood type of specialized care. Today, the company is releasing a white paper outlining the importance of taking a holistic approach to serious illness support and the increasing need for palliative care programs across the country. Findings also highlight that palliative care makes a significant difference in the quality of life for a person who is diagnosed with a serious or chronic illness, and shine a spotlight on the experiences and perspectives of palliative care researchers and providers here in Utah.

Palliative care is often described as an extra layer of support for people who are diagnosed with a serious medical condition. It is designed to provide emotional, physical and spiritual support for a person who is managing their illness, while also looking out for the interests of that person’s loved ones and caregivers. This care and support is provided after an initial diagnosis and throughout the care continuum and to a cure if possible, or to the completion of life.

A team of doctors, nurses, social workers and other specialists works together to identify and meet the needs of the patient. However, rather than focusing just on the illness, palliative care meets the personal needs of the patient, including pain and symptom management, and helps with everyday needs such as transportation to appointments or emotional support and counseling.

“Employing palliative care can greatly improve the quality of life for a person who has been diagnosed,” said Bruce Smith, MD, FACP, executive medical director, Palliative Care Services for Regence. “It is essential that we collaborate, listen to and document a person’s goals of care throughout their illness. This approach ensures that palliative care can be that extra layer of support.”

The Journal of Palliative Medicine states that “palliative care is expanding rapidly in the United States.” Specifically, the state of Utah has received an “A” grade in a recent report from the Center to Advance Palliative Care and the National Palliative Care Research Center, which analyzes access to palliative care in hospitals.

In 2014, Regence introduced a new palliative care solution called Personalized Care Support to address this unmet need of its members. “From personal experience and from sensitive discussions I’ve had with other community leaders, I’ve come to deeply appreciate how important it is to have this kind of ‘all-in-one-place’ support,” said Jennifer Danielson, president of Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah.

One of the most comprehensive programs in the nation, Regence’s Personalized Care Support uniquely offers seamlessly integrated benefits such as:

  • A dedicated case manager to educate and guide.
  • Caregiver Support including a 24/7 nurse advice line, counseling services, care management plan and community resources. This is very unique benefit. The caregiver does not need to be a member of the health plan to utilize these benefits.
  • Community resources, behavioral health care and in-home counseling.
  • Concurrent curative care. This sets palliative care apart from hospice services.
  • Home-health benefits to reduce the stress of leaving the home for services.
  • Advance care planning – Since 2014, Regence has been reimbursing doctors for having important conversations about goals of care. On October 30, The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a change to the Physician Fee Schedule, stating that physicians would be compensated for end-of-life conversations. The CMS announcement may open doors for other private payers to compensate doctors for these conversations.

About Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah

Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah, based in Salt Lake City, is the state’s first health insurer and now provides nearly 465,000 members with comprehensive health insurance solutions. As a nonprofit independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, Regence is part of a family of companies dedicated to transforming health care by delivering innovative products and services that change the way consumers in Utah and nationwide experience health care. For more information, please visit regence.com, facebook.com/regenceutah, or twitter.com/regenceutah.