VITAS Healthcare: Bringing End of Life Conversations to the Big Screen

“It was a powerful way to connect…and allowed us to talk about a clinical issue in a spiritual and community context.” – Kate Haralson, Manager, Clinical Quality Improvement at The Health Collaborative

VITAS Healthcare

End-of-life planning can be among the most difficult – and the most important – conversations one can have. Whether faced with immediate concerns or thinking proactively, it’s important for the terminally ill to communicate their wishes with relatives, loved ones, and friends. To that end, VITAS Healthcare has created “Hospice Can Help,” a program dedicated to facilitating end-of-life decision-making and ensuring those decisions are honored. VITAS provides hospice and palliative care services throughout the United States to ensure the comfort and dignity of its patients who are critically ill or nearing the end of their lives.

The VITAS “Hospice Can Help” program is being recognized by The Health Collaborative as a finalist for the 2017 Gen-H Award, for its screenings of the documentary film Being Mortal. As part of the 2017 Inspire | Healthcare dinner and awards celebration planned for November 1, the Gen-H Award recognizes an individual, team, or organization that has demonstrated progress on the Gen-H goals of making the healthy choice the easy choice where we live, work, learn, or play. Gen-H, or “The Health Generation,” is all of us working together to make health and healthcare a value we share in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

Patient-centered decision-making
For over 30 years, VITAS has advocated for the rights and wishes of terminally ill patients and their families. It upholds the belief that patients should be apprised of their clinical prognosis and be involved in the decision-making process surrounding their end-of-life care. Its Greater Cincinnati offices serve patients and their families in Butler, Warren, Clinton, Hamilton, Clermont, Brown, Adams, and Highland counties, bringing hospice care into private homes, skilled nursing facilities, and long-term care communities. In addition to expert clinical care, VITAS offers holistic approaches to end-of-life care including pet visits and music, art, and massage therapies.

As VITAS has continually adapted to the ever-changing world of healthcare, it has stayed mindful of its commitment to meeting the changing needs of those with a life-limiting illness and their families, and to increasing the numbers of people whose wishes are documented and known to loved ones. According to industry research, while 90% of people know they should discuss their end-of-life care preferences with loved ones and medical professionals, only about 30% actually do. In 2017, VITAS Healthcare changed how it begins hospice conversations by broadening its “Hospice Can Help” initiative to include screenings of Being Mortal to community and healthcare partners.

Realizing the impact of hospice care
Being Mortal from PBS’ FRONTLINE follows renowned New Yorker writer and Boston surgeon Atul Gawande as he explores the relationships doctors have with patients who are nearing the end of life. Using real-world examples and personal stories, the film demonstrates the positive impact hospice can have on improving the quality of time a patient can spend with caregivers, family, and friends.

The power of hospice care is felt not only by the patient, but by caregivers, healthcare providers, hospital staff, nursing home facilities, religious institutions, and members & supporters within the patient’s community. More times than not, a patient will see an improvement in their condition upon receiving care from their hospice team. Family members experience reduced stress, improved quality time with their loved one, and better overall health due to the additional layer of support provided by hospice. Hospitals & health systems find that their critical-care patients receiving 24/7 hospice support are less likely to be readmitted to the hospital. Nursing homes find solace and savings in additional support from hospice for the unique needs of the terminally ill. The community surrounding and supporting a patient takes heart knowing that appropriate care is being provided to one of its own.

Being Mortal has been presented to over 20 audiences, with VITAS staff leading each group through conversations around the importance of hospice in the lives of a multidisciplinary group of religious leaders, healthcare providers, and community members. The positive impact of VITAS Healthcare and its many programs & initiatives is realized every day when a patient is able to spend quality time with loved ones, without the total weight of their care resting on their shoulders.

A powerful way to connect
“I attended a VITAS screening of Being Mortal, and was just thankful for a forum where we could openly discuss end-of-life planning and experiences,” says Kate Haralson, Manager of Clinical Quality Improvement at The Health Collaborative. “We discussed disparities in access to end-of-life resources, and the audience members were candid about their own experiences. It was a powerful way to connect with other stakeholders and allowed us to talk about a clinical issue in a spiritual and community context.”

Meet the team

  • Amanda Curtis RN, CHPN, Patient Care Administrator
  • Susan Davis DO, Medical Director
  • Daniel Lubrecht, General Manager
  • Meridith Southard, Director of Market Development

The Health Collaborative and its Gen-H staff hope the community will join us in congratulating 2017 Gen-H Award Finalists VITAS Healthcare and its “Hospice Can Help” team, for their screenings of the documentary film Being Mortal. Providing decision-making tools around end-of-life decisions to patients, families, caregivers, and communities creates stronger partnerships and enhances the capacity in our region to meet the healthcare needs of every person.

About Inspire | Healthcare:
Inspire | Healthcare is the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky region’s premier annual healthcare event and awards celebration. The awards seek to recognize innovations by individuals, teams, and/or organizations in the areas of informatics, quality improvement, and population health. Other awards given annually include the Inspire Champion Award and the Hoxworth Blood Drive Awards, with separate nomination and judging processes. For more information about Inspire | Healthcare, visit healthcollab.org/inspire.

About The Health Collaborative:
The Health Collaborative strives to lead data-driven improvement initiatives that result in healthier people, better care, and smarter spending. Based in Cincinnati, we work with those who provide care, pay for care, and receive care, to find mutual solutions to healthcare’s most challenging problems. For more information about The Health Collaborative, visit healthcollab.org.

Leave a Comment