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Hospice Offers Unique Lung Care Program

The Advanced Lung Disease (ALD) program at NorthCare Hospice & Palliative Care (NorthCare) was recently named Program of the Year by the Missouri Hospice and Palliative Care Association. The award goes to organizations that enhance the quality of life for a designated population. NorthCare has cared for more than 210 ALD patients since its inception in the spring of 2012.

NorthCare is unique in the metropolitan area. It is the only hospice with a program specifically geared to serve the needs of patients with ALD, including COPD, emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis and chronic bronchitis. It is an affiliate of North Kansas City Hospital.

Patients in the program can be referred by area hospitals, but also by primary care providers and pulmonologists. To qualify for the program, a patient must have ALD as a primary diagnosis. He or she must also meet Medicare hospice guidelines, with an expected survival rate of six months or less. Patients can stay in the program, however, as long as they meet Medicare guidelines.

A Continuum of Care

The ALD program is based on a medical home model of care. NorthCare Clay Anderson, MDcollaborates with the patient’s personal physicians, staff respiratory therapists, physical therapists, chaplains, social workers and nurses. “We want North Kansas City Hospital and its partners to deliver the best continuity of care for people with lung disease from the time of diagnosis to the end of care,” says Clay Anderson, MD, NorthCare’s medical director. “NorthCare is a component of the continuum of care, and coordinating with other medical specialties in lung disease is extremely important.”

A Specialized Program

Everyone working in the ALD program at NorthCare has been trained specifically on how to care for patients with this condition. Above and beyond providing exceptional hospice care, providers at NorthCare have expertise in management of the ALD patient, which includes knowing:

• How to treat the anxiety that often accompanies shortness of breath

• When to add medications like prednisone

• How to deal with symptom clusters (multiple interacting symptoms)

• When to intervene and when to call a physician

• How to deal with the social isolation that these patients often face

• The importance of treating patients who smoke with respect and dignity

These providers also understand one of the major challenges with ALD patients is that they come with a lot of equipment and medication. Dr. Anderson says that part of NorthCare’s expertise is collaborating with physicians to manage the patients’ treatment – keeping it as streamlined and effective as possible. 

“Patients shouldn’t have to use an inhaler 30 times a day or take 50 pills a day,” Dr. Anderson says. “We won’t take treatment away, but our job is to make sure they are on the right medication, don’t have too much or too little and have the right equipment at the right time.”

Proven Results

ALDThe goal of the services at NorthCare is to reduce hospital stays and emergency room visits with ALD patients, and it has borne results. Thus far, only 2.3 percent of all NorthCare ALD patients had an ALD related ER visit.

“After we implemented this program, we realized a drastic reduction in ER visits for people with ALD who are in hospice,” Dr. Anderson says. “Either we get symptoms controlled or prevented at home or patients go into NorthCare hospice, and they  don't need inpatient hospital care.

Clay Anderson, MD

After completing medical school at Stanford University, Dr. Anderson completed an internal medicine residency at the University of Colorado Health Services Center in Denver, Co. and a fellowship in medical oncology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Tx. Dr. Anderson is board certified in internal medicine, medical oncology and hospice and palliative care.

To learn more call, (816) 691-5119.