7 Things You Should Ask about Doctor Referrals

doctor referrals

Finding the right hospice center for you or your loved one can be difficult. How are you supposed to know which place will cater to your needs and understand what is most important to you? Getting a recommendation from your doctor or other health care provider can be helpful, as they likely work with hospices and home care employers on a regular basis. But be wary. Sometimes doctors get a financial kickback when referring patients, meaning they might not always have your best interests at heart. Here are some questions to ask your doctor about finding quality hospice care to ensure you’ll find the right place.

Is the hospice Medicare certified?

If this is how you will be financing the time at hospice, this is a vital thing to ask about. Some private and smaller hospice centers do not accept Medicare/Medicaid patients. Don’t forget that Medicare will also pay for a hospice physician to meet with terminally ill patients who are not yet in a hospice. This may include a pain assessment along with listing potential care options and advance care planning. This physician may know of facilities that can meet your current or upcoming needs.

Is this hospice center accredited or licensed by the state?

Accreditation by the The Joint Commission or Community Health Accreditation Partner is not required for a hospice to function and does not necessarily mean it isn’t providing good care. But these accreditations can give you the peace of mind that a neutral third party has examined the standards of care and are maintaining them at a quality level. Doctors should be referring you to such places.

Will this hospice meet your or your loved one’s specific needs?

Patients needing hospice care are not one size fits all– everyone has individual needs and priorities during this stage of life. If pain management is important, make sure the facility can provide it. If having a pet be able to visit will improve the patient’s final days, ensure this is a possibility. Don’t think any of your requests are too specific– it is your doctor’s responsibility to ensure your needs and best interests are met.

Are there any services for caregivers?

Taking care of a loved one going through a terminal illness can be exhausting. Hospices almost always have social workers or spiritual guidance available for families, but see if there are any additional measures in place. This is especially applicable if you are planning to use home hospice care– ask if there are nurses or aides who can provide relief care for a few hours at a time.

How does the hospice track quality of care?

Along with accreditation, hospices should be keeping track if they’re maintaining top notch quality of care for their patients. This record keeping was implemented as part of the Affordable Care Act–it requires hospices to collect and track quality measures and data since 2014, so that the best and most consistent care can be provided for patients and their families.

What do other sources say about this hospice center or staff?

While getting your doctor’s opinion on what hospice or home care would be ideal for your situation, getting other opinions is also a good idea. Because you may not know the motives behind your physician’s recommendations, ask other nurses, hospital social workers, state hospice associations and more for their thoughts on what kind of care would be best for you.

Ask the doctor outright if they receive any kind of reimbursement for referrals for any kind of services.

If you’re concerned about getting an honest referral from your doctor and you feel comfortable doing so, ask them if they get any kind of kickback or reimbursement if they refer patients to certain hospice centers. Your physician should be honest and upfront with you, and this way if they do receive kickbacks then you can find other opinions and do research on your own.

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