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Program by Univera, hospice groups aims to improve palliative care

Univera Healthcare and five hospice organizations that serve Western New York have started a two-year pilot program in palliative care to improve quality of life for patients with serious chronic illnesses.

The goal is to get patients referred to palliative care sooner, provide the care in a setting that they most prefer – their homes, and deliver the care by a team working in collaboration with the referring physician. Beginning this month, the program will be available at no additional cost to Western New York residents enrolled in Univera Healthcare’s commercial and Medicare Advantage health insurance plans, the health plan announced.

Participating hospice programs include Home Connections in Erie County; Pathways Palliative Care in Niagara County; Chautauqua Palliative Care; Hospice of Orleans; and HomeCare & Hospice – Comfort Partners in Allegany, Cattaraugus, Genesee, and Wyoming counties.

To be eligible, patients must have a serious illness with a high pain and symptom burden, functional or cognitive impairment, frailty, or need complex care coordination, officials said.

The team that provides care would include health care personnel trained in palliative care, including a physician medical director, registered or licensed practical nurse coordinator, social worker and chaplain.

As part of the program, officials said they plan to track such measures as rates of emergency department visits and hospital admissions, and prescription drug use.