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Navigating a newly diagnosed or chronic cardiac disease can be a daunting task, especially in these days of global pandemic, but thankfully there's a program right here in Chattanooga that can help ease the burden for patients.

Heart Touch Journey, by Alleo Health System, is designed to help hospice and palliative care cardiac disease patients stay in their home setting and includes a specialty designed cardiac medication kit to keep in the home, according to Dr. Greg Phelps, Chief Medical Director, Alleo Health System.

"We are available 24/7 to walk you through the situation, how to use the medications, reducing lengthy and uncomfortable visits to the emergency room and hospital re-admissions," he shared. "We send providers to the home."

According to the program guidelines, Heart Touch Journey is for Palliative Care Services (PCS) and hospice patients with a cardiac diagnosis. The difference between the two programs is that under hospice, all equipment and medication are paid for under Medicare part A Benefit.

In general, hospice patients often have a prognosis of six months or less if the disease runs its normal course and are focused more on comfort than aggressive care. For palliative care patients, it is an extra layer of support and it's paid for by Medicare part B, which doesn't pay for medications. PCS patients have to pay for medications, which will cost approximately $24. If the patient has a medication insurance plan, the cost of the medications could be much less.

Dr. Phelps disclosed that a PCS consult must come before the medication kit can be ordered for the patient, and a nurse practitioner must do a face to face visit in the home or senior living facility.

Hospice patients' eligibility is determined by a physician after a registered nurse does a home visit and evaluation and calls the hospice medical director for admission to hospice care. Once hospice eligibility is confirmed, a nurse will put in an order for the emergency medication kit to be placed in the home setting.

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"Hospice patients are not seeking aggressive care and have six-month prognosis if the disease runs its normal course, whereas palliative care is for serious illness that could be life threatening, but not defined as terminal. Such patients may still be seeking aggressive care or be outside the six-month window of hospice," Dr. Phelps said. "PCS patients can be seeking curative treatment and stay in close contact with their primary care and specialty physicians. Many hospice patients choose to be managed by the specialized hospice physicians, but they may also keep their physicians if they wish."

For those considering the program and assistance, Dr. Phelps said he advises Heart Touch Journey for patients eligible for hospice or palliative care who wish to manage pain and symptoms of their cardiac disease as soon as possible.

"The data shows that hospice and palliative patients who manage symptoms can live longer by being more comfortable and maximizing their quality of life," he noted.

And of course, in light of COVID-19, Dr. Phelps stressed that Alleo Health is offering telehealth visits to help maintain patients' safety above all.

"Patients should know that there are options and ways to be comfortable in your own home and reduce hospital or ER visits and avoid COVID-19 exposure," said Dr. Phelps. "Now more than ever, this program can truly help PCS or hospice patients remain in the comfort of their own home. Patients should know that there are options and ways to be comfortable and avoid COVID-19 exposure," said Dr. Phelps. "Specific to Heart Touch Journey, the comfort kits are in the patient's home, so this eliminates the need to visit the emergency room as well as venturing out to pick up the medications provided in the comfort kit. "

Daily support calls and visits will be made to Heart Touch Journey patients based on the desires of the patient/family.

To learn more about Heart Touch Journey, contact Hospice of Chattanooga referral intake at 423-892-1533 or Palliative Care Services at 423-553-1823 or visit hospiceofchattanooga.org/heart-touch-journey or palliativecareservices.org/heart-touch-journey.

People can also gain more info about the differences in palliative and hospice care at palliativecareservices.org/hospice-or-palliative-care.

 

The benefits of the Heart Touch Program include:

-Emergency Medications placed in the home

-Daily calls and visits if needed to decrease uncomfortable and lengthy trips to the Emergency Room to avoid exposure to potential infections and viruses

-24/7 accessibility to an on-call clinician

-Better quality of life

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