DIANA FRANCHITTO, CEO and president of Providence-based hospice and home health organization HopeHealth, was recently elected vice chair of the National Partnership for Healthcare and Hospice Innovation. The partnership is a national nonprofit focused on innovation and establishing best practices in end-of-life care. Franchitto previously served as the partnership’s treasurer.
What are your plans for the National Partnership for Healthcare and Hospice Innovation as board vice chair? We’re focused on advocacy at the federal level to ensure all those who need hospice services can access them and not just at the very end of life. We have a major national diversity, equity and inclusion initiative to address racial disparities in accessing high-quality end-of-life care. Most importantly, people who are seriously ill should not miss out on services that could relieve their suffering and improve the quality of time they have left with their families. Research has shown that hospice improves quality of life, reduces hospitalizations and provides for a truly meaningful experience when time matters most.
What do you feel is greatly needed to improve hospice care in Rhode Island and nationally? Rhode Islanders have had the benefit of a strong nonprofit community-based hospice presence for many decades. In fact, HopeHealth was the second hospice in the country. While there is high hospice use in Rhode Island, we have one of the shortest hospice lengths of stay in the country. HopeHealth is therefore focused on building strong palliative care services throughout the state, training the next generation of physicians in hospice and palliative care with our academic affiliation with the [Warren] Alpert Medical School of Brown University and sharing our knowledge with all clinicians in Rhode Island with our “Complex Care Conversations” curriculum.
How much of a challenge has the pandemic posed in families not being able to be close to loved ones in hospice care? So many families suffered during the pandemic as their loved ones endured isolation and visiting restrictions. I’m so grateful that the HopeHealth Hulitar Hospice Center was able to remain open 24/7 to visitors throughout the pandemic. I can’t begin to tell you the number of thank-you letters we have received from families even though we’ve had to restrict the number of visitors. It’s so heartwarming.
What protocols and initiatives did you help put in place for the HopeHealth Hulitar Hospice Center to remain open during the pandemic? We needed to ensure that our staff and families had appropriate [personal protective equipment]. We test front-line staff every week and continue to send daily texts to all staff to self-screen for symptoms before coming to work. We also quickly ramped up our grief support groups to meet virtually. I’m thrilled to say we have actually doubled grief support participation compared to before the pandemic. Supporting our grieving families in new and different ways has been a silver lining.
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