Hospice-Doula Partnership: A Look at Costs & ROI

November 28, 2023
Care Models
3 min
Sam Madison, COO

A recent article highlights the growing trend of hospices integrating end-of-life doulas (EOLDs) into their workforce, citing various benefits such as improved quality outcomes, enhanced care continuity, and increased retention. This type of partnership allows the hospice to have on-demand access to EOLDs, addressing unmet needs among terminally ill patients and their families. Often, the hospice covers the costs of doula services through philanthropic donations, offering them as a complimentary service to patients and families. This arrangement addresses the gaps between medical and non-medical care. Similarly, hospices provide death doula services at no cost to patients and families. The spiritual care team primarily connects patients with doulas, emphasizing the flexibility and customization of the hospice experience based on patients' final wishes.

At Thanacare, we are seeing similar work across our death doula partner network. The upfront costs involve fine-tuning the referral structure and working with care managers so that upstream work like advance care planning is provided with the required the level of expertise. Despite the expenses, hospices view the investment as worthwhile, given the positive impact on patient and family experiences. Measuring improved quality outcomes impacts on Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers & Systems (CAHPS) scores. EOLDs offer additional support to families feeling anxious or fearful, contributing to a more positive patient and family experience during the last days of life.

Currently, death doula services are not reimbursed by Medicare nor other insurance, leading hospices to explore various avenues for funding, including donations, philanthropic support, grants, and scholarships. Despite this challenge, hospices recognize the value of EOLDs in providing consistent support and continuity of care, especially during times of staff shortages. Furthermore, the article emphasizes the evolving nature of the end-of-life doula workforce. Doulas come from diverse backgrounds, ages, and ethnicities, reflecting a more representative and inclusive workforce. This diversity is seen as a valuable asset in bridging gaps and better understanding the needs of underserved populations.

In conclusion, the integration of end-of-life doulas into hospice care is presented as a positive and transformative development. The article suggests that the benefits, including improved quality outcomes and enhanced support for patients and families, outweigh the associated costs. As the role of EOLDs continues to evolve, hospices are exploring creative ways to ensure equitable access to these services and address workforce shortages. Along the way, Thanacare is lockstep with EOLDs in defining and professionalizing services in the hospice space.