LifePath operator to offer services for frail, elderly before they need hospice

LifePath Hospice enrollment adviser Milton Florian, foreground, takes calls as enrollment adviser Cat Dawson talks with training manager Jason D’Auria at the company’s new center in Tampa.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

LifePath Hospice enrollment adviser Milton Florian, foreground, takes calls as enrollment adviser Cat Dawson talks with training manager Jason D’Auria at the company’s new center in Tampa.

TAMPA — LifePath Hospice provided end-of-life care for nearly 65 percent of those who died last year in Hillsborough County. Now its nonprofit operator wants to serve residents long before they need hospice.

The company, which on Wednesday announced it has changed its name to Chapters Health System, announced plans to be a one-stop destination for frail and elderly people who are not critically ill, but still need supportive health services.

"We're expanding that continuum to include the last few years of a patient's life and not just the last six months," said Kathy Fernandez, president and chief executive of the company, formerly known as HPC Healthcare. "We feel these patients have fallen through the cracks over the years."

LifePath Hospice will continue to offer services in Hillsborough under its existing name. So will its sister organization, Good Shepherd Hospice, serving Polk, Highlands and Hardee counties.

But the parent company is expanding in response to a convergence of health care trends: The growing numbers of seniors with complex, chronic diseases. The push for higher-quality, more cost-effective care. The struggles of caregivers trying to navigate a fragmented health landscape.

Even the hospice population is changing. Two decades ago, 70 percent of its hospice patients were dying of cancer. Thanks to greater awareness of hospice services, today most have terminal illnesses other than cancer. Some may improve enough to go home for a while, but still need intensive care.

In September, enrollment will begin for the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly. This is a national program that enables people otherwise eligible for nursing homes to continue living at home.

Several times a week, participants will see doctors and other health care providers at an adult day center to be located at 5102 W Linebaugh Ave. in Tampa. Transportation is included.

While this is the first PACE center in Hillsborough, many in Pinellas already are familiar with the model, long available through the Neighborly Care Network. Funding comes from a fixed monthly payment for each enrollee through Medicare and Medicaid, the federal and state health insurance programs.

The idea is to move away from the fee-for-service system, in which money can be made by ordering more tests and procedures. At PACE, the incentives support preventive care.

A nursing home diversion program, slated to begin enrollment this summer, is designed for seniors with more independence who meet eligibility standards that include income limits. It will help with household chores and transportation to doctors offices.

Chief operating officer Andy Lutton said he expects more services to be added. "Our long-term goal," he said, "is that we would be able to find a program for anybody who's frail and elderly and needs help with their health."

Letitia Stein can be reached at lstein@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3322. For more health news, visit www.tampabay.com/health.

Learn more about the services available to Hillsborough residents through Chapters Health System at (813) 440-5200.

Information services

Learn more about the services available to Hillsborough residents through Chapters Health System at (813) 440-5200.

LifePath operator to offer services for frail, elderly before they need hospice 06/01/11 [Last modified: Thursday, June 2, 2011 1:36pm]

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