VNA Health Group Receives $500,000 Grant from Jay & Linda Grunin Foundation for Palliative Care Intervention Program

08-16-2018

Jay and Linda Grunin Bridges Palliative Care Program Will Connect Home Health Patients and Families with Palliative Physicians, Social Workers and Nurse Practitioners for Palliative Consultations

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HOLMDEL, New Jersey (August 16, 2018) – Visiting Nurse Association Health Group, the second-largest nonprofit VNA in the country, has received a $500,000 grant from the Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation to pilot the Jay and Linda Grunin Bridges Palliative Care program. Over the course of two years, the program will provide approximately 600 palliative medicine consultations to provide better care for home health patients who may be eligible for palliative or, eventually, hospice services. The goal of the program is to produce better outcomes for patients and families at a lower cost to the health care system overall.

The program  officially launched on August 1, 2018 and targets residents in Ocean and Monmouth counties, in partnership with RWJBarnabas Health, specifically Community Medical Center, Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus, and Monmouth Medical Center.  

“We are so grateful for this generous grant that allows us to provide better care for our most vulnerable patients,” said Steven Landers, MD, MPH, and President of VNA Health Group. “We have been providing hospice care to Garden State residents since 1979 when we were selected as a Medicare demonstration group and operated the first hospice in New Jersey. We anticipate that this type of simple intervention will dramatically improve the end-of-life experience for our patients and their families.”

“In our experience, and also supported by data, many of our patients seek palliative or hospice care too late in their illness,” said Marianne Holler, DO, Chief Medical Officer of Hospice, Palliative Medicine and the Advanced Care Institute at VNA Health Group. “We hope that through this program, patients and families will be better informed of their choices, have a better quality of life, and allow families to enjoy extra time with their loved ones.”

The Jay and Linda Grunin Bridges Palliative Care program is a response to the many obstacles that New Jersey residents currently face when accessing end-of-life care, including the reluctance of doctors and nurses to have straight-forward and objective conversations with their patients and their families about hospice care and patient and family misconceptions about palliative or hospice care. 

Despite most residents’ desire to spend their final days at home, studies show that only a small percentage of New Jersey residents actually die at home. VNA Health Group’s innovative program will rely on an evaluation process using data from Medalogix, a software program that helps identify home health patients who may benefit from palliative or hospice care. Once those patients are identified, VNA Health Group will provide a consultation from a palliative physician, social worker, registered nurse, or nurse practitioner, depending on the individual patient’s need. These professionals can provide a more holistic and objective perspective on the patient’s status than a specialist (i.e. oncologist, cardiologist) is able to provide. The purpose of the consultation and conversation is to educate the patient and their family about their care options. Currently these types of consultations are not typical for home health patients and the implementation of the new program hopes to contribute to a decrease in unnecessary hospitalizations.

In the Dartmouth Atlas Project’s latest report, “Our Parents, Ourselves: Health Care for an Aging Population,” released earlier this year, Medicare patients in New York City and New Jersey spend an average of 4.3 to 9 days in an ICU within their final six months. In addition, the high number of patients with dementia were fed through a tube near the end – meaning efforts to help them eat normally had failed – and as many as 18 percent of Medicare patients were taking risky medications in their final months. The study also revealed that a high number of Medicare patients were only transferred to hospice care in the last three days of their life, meaning that they weren’t able to experience the true benefits of a palliative-care system that is focused on keeping them comfortable.

The Jay and Linda Grunin Bridges Palliative Care program will disrupt these typical scenarios by introducing palliative- and hospice-eligible patients to the true benefits of the program in a timelier and more appropriate manner.