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UPMC, Family Hospice Partner to Help Patients, Families Facing Life-Limiting Illnesses

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 15, 2011 – UPMC today announced a formal affiliation with Family Hospice and Palliative Care, western Pennsylvania’s leading not-for-profit, community-based hospice and palliative care provider. Under the agreement, UPMC, through its Palliative and Supportive Institute (PSI), will provide physicians, training and technical support to Family Hospice as part of a broader effort to help patients and families facing serious illness. Family Hospice will work closely with UPMC clinicians to expand access to hospice and palliative care for patients with life-limiting illnesses throughout the UPMC system.

Hospice is a concept of care designed to provide comfort and support to patients and their loved ones when a life-limiting illness no longer responds to curative measures. Through a team-oriented approach to care, hospice improves patients’ quality of life by offering comfort, dignity and compassion.

Palliative care is specialized medical care for the seriously ill, focused on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain and stress of their illnesses – whatever the diagnosis. Palliative care can often be provided along with curative treatments, and can help improve patients’ ability to tolerate medical interventions.

“Patients with life-limiting illnesses can benefit from palliative care at any time during their illness, including those patients in hospice. This affiliation enables both organizations that are committed to excellence in palliative care and hospice care to work closely together to optimize patient care. It also strengthens the training and expertise of physicians, nurse practitioners and other health care providers, and facilitates continuity of care for patients who are seeking palliative and hospice care," said Susan Hunt, M.D., chief medical officer, Family Hospice and Palliative Care, and a UPMC palliative care physician. 

“An integrated approach is vital to palliative care, and this affiliation between UPMC and Family Hospice is a great opportunity to work with patients and their primary care doctors and patients,” said Robert Arnold, M.D., PSI medical director, UPMC, and chief of the section of palliative care and medical ethics, Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

“Our affiliation with UPMC and its respected palliative care physicians ensures the highest level of quality, compassionate care for hospice and palliative care patients and their loved ones. We are delighted that UPMC is among our primary hospital affiliations that are available to patients and families in the region,” said Rafael Sciullo, president and CEO, Family Hospice and Palliative Care.

Within their last six months of life, more than 70 percent of Medicare recipients are hospitalized more than once. In western Pennsylvania, more than 27 percent of Medicare recipients die in the hospital and most of these patients spend at least 11 days in the hospital during their final months, notes Denise Stahl, R.N., M.S.N., executive director, UPMC PSI.

“We know we can have great impact on the quality of care patients receive and the experience of serious illness,” Ms. Stahl said. “Bringing the resources and services of UPMC and Family Hospice together will improve care for patients by helping them face this difficult time in their lives with dignity and autonomy.”

Based on this partnership, effective immediately, physicians at Family Hospice will be employed by or affiliated with UPMC and will be certified in palliative care. Family Hospice physicians also will participate in educational opportunities offered by PSI in an effort to advance quality and consistency of care.

Family Hospice also will work with UPMC to integrate electronic health information for patients, including the development of tools to help exchange clinical data, advance care documentation and other material vital to continuity of care between Family Hospice and UPMC.

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