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Liv Castro ’19 conducts trend research for Hospice organization

By Upstate Institute on June 30, 2017

Through the Upstate Institute Summer Field School, this summer, I have had the privilege of working as a Fellow at Chenango County’s Hospice & Palliative Care in the Norwich region. Hospice of Chenango County is a relatively small non-profit healthcare organization that specializes in end of life care. Their mission is to provide the highest quality end of life care by partnering with patients, families, and the community. In doing so, Hospice strives to provide pain and symptom control, and give emotional and social support to all their patients and loved ones. Hospice of Chenango County provides three service lines to their residents in the Chenango County: hospice care, to those living in their homes or a contracted skilled nursing facility; palliative care through a collaboration with At Home Care; and Complimentary Grief Services to residents of Chenango County.

Liv Castro with Kendall Drexler of Hospice Chenango.

Especially in lieu of the new administration, the future of healthcare is uncertain and ever-changing. With changes in regulations, treatments, laws, and the rapid acceleration of technology, something new is always around the corner. During my time at Hospice of Chenango County, I have been exposed to the non-profit side of a healthcare organization that is eager for growth and determined to provide their services to all residents in need. By working together under new leadership, the new changes in action are positive and headed in the right direction to make the organization an even better resource for Chenango County residents. The ideas and conversations sparked from the ever changing facets of healthcare have proven to be useful and necessary to improve access to care and experience of care, all while doing this with a non-profit mindset. With this mindset, donations and fundraisers are most valuable (such as the annual plant sale).

Insurance reimbursement is Hospice’s primary source of revenue. In 2016, the rate for caring for a patient was $146.20 per day. However, the actual cost of care is $158.54 per day. The plant sale has proven to be Hospice’s largest fundraiser, while bringing joy to Hospice families in many areas. With around 53 sites to collect plant orders over Chenango County, the annual spring plant sale helps cover the insurance reimbursement for a full day of hospice care for a patient. The 2017 plant sale alone raised $35,917.90. As the insurance reimbursement for care continually declines, this plant sale is the leading fundraiser for this organization.

This summer I have been involved in researching trends in patient referral sources from the calendar years 2014-2017 to highlight where marketing energies would best be focused as well as delegating the best avenues for fundraising. By collecting data and being involved in the strategic planning process, I have gained a better understanding of how data should drive a well informed strategic plan. My first project was to plot out where patients live, where the referral for Hospice care came from, and where their primary care doctor location is. This was done to determine where outreach should be focused, along with marketing and education efforts. For example, if a majority of the town of Earlville referrals are by word of mouth, it would in the best interest to continue with a word of mouth marketing system in the Earlville area. Hospice is often an under-appreciated facet of healthcare because it deals with the ending phases of life. Often, people connect Hospice with ‘giving up.’On the contrary, hospice is a service that comes to the patient; 67% of patients receive Hospice in their own home. It is proven that patients in Hospice care, on average, live 29 days longer than those who are not in Hospice. With these numbers in mind I have also been working towards highlighting the areas where knowledge of Hospice is prominent, and areas where it is lacking. By collecting data, in the future the organization hopes to extend their outreach to areas that have little of knowledge of Hospice but are in need of the end of life care services.

My second project is more fundraiser based. With five large fundraisers a year, Hospice of Chenango County wanted a detailed analysis of who is supporting the campaigns (old donors, new donors, families of patients) and reassurance that the fundraisers are well intended. These fundraisers are crucial to the organization and I have been closely looking at the plant sale records over the last few years to see if there are any trends in who continuously comes back and buys plants every year and which plants sell the most or least. In addition to my research I have also developed a survey for patient families to create a focus group. Through Facebook, I will be administering a survey that will help gather information from patient families about how and when they heard about Hospice, and what type of service this organization provided them, whether it be good or bad.

Although I have done research in the past, I have never truly explored geographical trends, so this avenue of research has been quite new to me. Everyone working with the Hospice of Chenango County is extremely welcoming, hard working, and dedicated to the end of life care speciality that Hospice entails. I am very excited to continue my projects alongside individuals who spend their time improving the lives of others and learning more about Hospice as a healthcare system.

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