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The Need for Clarity in Palliative Care

Robin's Blog
Thought Leadership

By Robin Stawasz

We have all heard the quip – if you have seen one palliative care program, you’ve seen one palliative care program. That variability within PC has its benefits. It provides a flexibility that drives adaptability and innovation, and it allows for many different care models from many different sources. But it also comes with a cost. Some PC providers keep that vagueness and lack of structure within their individual programs, creating a lack of clarity and focus that can keep palliative care from meeting its full potential. 

When I work with PC providers, I often ask them to describe their eligibility criteria. I often hear back very general, loose conditions that are applied differently in different situations. Even more, when I ask about their PC discharge criteria, the great majority do not have those defined in any way, thinking of hospice as their discharge plan. Without a defined and specific patient population, which is what admission and discharge criteria determine, what specific problem is the PC program trying to address? What is the target population? What is to protect the program from being overrun? Or having access applied unequally? If you are not able to articulate the problem you are working to solve, how will you know when you have been successful? 

This becomes even more important when PC providers are looking for funding. Payers have specific needs they are trying to meet and defined patient populations they are looking to serve. PC providers need to demonstrate how they can identify these populations and address those needs. In addition, PC providers need to set boundaries to keep programs healthy and sustainable. While these definitions and processes must remain flexible as the program evolves, flexibility is not the same as a lack of clarity. If PC is going to develop any level of standardization, this is where it can start. 

If you would like to talk more about the need for clarity in Palliative care, Acclivity is here for you – please contact us.

Source Material: “To Succeed in Palliative Care, Providers Must Understand their Partners’ Problems” posted by Hospice News on April 24, 2023 and available at

Robin Stawasz