Palliative care group comments on ethics

Marketing addressed in statement

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) issued a position statement and commentary, "Hospice and Palliative Care: Ethical Marketing Practices," that guides providers to the use of sound, ethical practices that enhance the perception of hospice in the community.

NHPCO's position statement focuses on six key components:

• Access to care.

NHPCO recommends that hospices regularly review potential barriers to access and implement education and marketing efforts that help remove these barriers for individuals or groups.

• Competition.

Although competition can be a healthy, positive incentive for all providers to provide high quality service, NHPCO warns providers to avoid making promises of service that cannot be fulfilled. The position statement says, "Hospices must accurately represent the capacity and services of their organization in all marketing, outreach, and education."

• Hospice and palliative care organizations as referral sources.

The selection of business partners or referral sources such as durable medical equipment, pharmaceutical, and homecare services that provide services to hospice patients must be made with care, suggests NHPCO. "....organizations [should] have clearly stated policies for contracting with and making referrals to other community providers."

• Customer service excellence and boundaries.

NHPCO recommends that excellent customer service is attained by providing the highest level of clinical care "within the parameters that constitute clinically appropriate hospice and palliative care services which are compliant with all applicable federal and state regulations." Hospice and palliative care organizations, therefore, "assume responsibility for ethical decision-making and behavior related to the provision of hospice care."

• New trends in marketing and communication.

The growth in technology and the use of social media have increased the need for all organizations to review and enhance policies regarding the use of these new media for communication with the general public and with patients. NHPCO encourages the development and implementation of policies that especially pay attention the privacy rules set forth in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy and Security Rules.

• Traditional media marketing.

The use of traditional media such as print or radio also requires a careful examination of policies to ensure that the organization's efforts "promote the ethical and responsible use of patient/family testimonials in media outreach, respecting confidentiality, privacy and the physical and emotional well-being of those being served."

Resource

To access the complete, free copy of the position statement, go to www.nhpco.org, click on "Professional Resources," then click "Communications and Publications," then "NHPCO Position Statements and Ethical Positions."