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Studies: ‘Graying’ population needs creative health care

New JourneyCare programs offer innovative solutions

A new program that takes primary care directly to the homes of chronically ill patients could serve as a model for improved management and delivery of health services to increasing numbers of people who near the end of life within the next 10-20 years, according to Mark Grzeskowiak, MD, vice president of medical services at JourneyCare. JourneyCare serves 10 counties in the Chicago region and is one of the nation’s premier providers of hospice, palliative and chronic care.

This month, the agency launched JourneyCare House Calls, an innovative, home-based primary care program that brings doctors, nurses and even certain lab services directly to the homes of older patients, who have two or more chronic illnesses and are either homebound or partially homebound.

The program aims to “do more for patients upstream, attending to them earlier in their disease phase so that we can limit or prevent complications and enhance the quality of their lives,” Dr. Grzeskowiak says.

What makes JourneyCare House Calls especially unique is its team approach. Patients will not only be visited by primary care physicians, but by advanced practice nurses, therapists, social workers, even chaplains as needed. Clinicians can also perform basic laboratory services, including blood draws, urine samples and basic EKGs in a patient’s home.

“The graying of the population in the United States, Canada and other nations means a growing prevalence of chronic illnesses,” says Dr. Grzeskowiak. “As health professionals, we have a responsibility for developing new care solutions that will enhance overall quality of life for seriously-ill patients and their families.”

He cites a study published online in April 2018 in the peer-reviewed journal, BMJ Open, highlighting disparities in access to palliative care, with cancer patients receiving more supportive services than those with other serious illnesses, such as organ failure.

Another article, this one appearing in a 2017 edition of BMC Medicine, estimates death rates could rise significantly between now and 2040 and that this increase will drive up the need for more palliative and chronic care management. As many as 75 percent of patients approaching the end of life could benefit from palliative care, study authors state.

“We also know from recent research conducted by the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the University Health Network that earlier delivery of palliative care to patients with serious illness enhances the quality of their lives and improves coping skills,” Dr. Grzeskowiak says.

He also points to a January 2018 University of Michigan study that suggests health providers must do a better job communicating with patients’ family members, many of whom would like to get more involved in a loved one’s care, but say they are given little information and feel left out.

“JourneyCare House Calls is our organization’s response to the need for more creative and advanced solutions for delivery of health services to patients with serious and chronic diseases and families. Because the program is a pilot initiative, we will be closely monitoring and reviewing it between now and the end of 2019 to ensure that it is doing what it is designed to do on behalf of our patients,” Dr. Grzeskowiak says.

About JourneyCare

With 40 years of healthcare leadership and expertise, JourneyCare has achieved national recognition for growth, innovation, community partnerships and best practices in caring for adults and children with serious illness. JourneyCare serves 10 counties in the Chicago region and is the largest nonprofit provider of hospice and palliative care in Illinois. The agency also provides services that include JourneyCare House Calls, Chronic Care Management and JourneyCare Choices – serving patients at all stages of serious illness. JourneyCare is dedicated to enriching lives through expert, compassionate care and empowering patients and families to live with dignity, on their own terms. For more information, visit journeycare.org.