Yes. Hospice patients have the same patient rights as any other patient, one of which is to choose his or her attending physician. If the patient chooses to keep his own doctor, the hospice team will work with that physician, consulting about changes to the plan of care and reporting any changes in condition. Otherwise, the patient may choose to have an Ardent Hospice doctor oversee his or her care.
In either case, the role of the physician is the same. While the plan of care is under the direction of a physician, the primary point of contact is the hospice nurse. The nurse, as well as the aide, social worker, chaplain and, when requested, volunteer companion are the eyes and ears for the physician, reporting any needs or changes in condition. In addition to frequent phone conversations, the doctor meets with the hospice care team every two weeks. At each meeting, the team shares current information and has a chance to update the plan of care. Sometimes, it is decided that more visits are needed or medications need to be changed.
At admission, the physician certifies that the patient is appropriate for hospice care. To be appropriate, a hospice patient has a life-limiting diagnosis and if the disease takes its normal course, the patient will most likely have six months or less to live. Then, after the first 90 days, the physician re-certifies that the patient is still appropriate for hospice, and does the same after the second 90 days. After that, the time frame shortens, and the certification periods become 60 days apart. As long as the patient continues to meet criteria and the physician continues to certify eligibility, the patient stays on hospice care. This is how some patients stay on hospice care over six months.
Ardent currently has three physicians on staff, Dr. Sears, Dr. Kremer and Dr. Beste, each heading a care team. We draw upon their many years of experience and appreciate their compassion and dedication to this work.