Admissions Guidelines

The following information is strictly for the use of physicians and other health professionals, and does not constitute medical advice. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem. Please consult a qualified health care professional.
Select the corresponding link below for more information:

Determining Prognosis for Hospice
General Guidelines
CMS Disease Specific Guidelines (Local Coverage Determinations)
Click on a diagnosis for details.
Cancer ALS      Dementia     
Heart Disease HIV Liver
Pulmonary Kidney
Stroke & Coma     
* STANDARD ASSESSMENT TOOLS *
1. Functional Assessment Staging (FAST)
2. NYHA Functional Classification for Congestive Heart Failure
3. Palliative Performance Scale

 

Determining Prognosis of Six Months or Less for Hospice (TOP)

Avow’s hospice care program helps physicians:

  1. Determine hospice eligibility in terminally ill patients,
  2. Have the hospice conversation with patients and their families, and
  3. Take the best care of patients coping with the multitude of symptoms, practical issues and emotions that arise at the end of life.

Referring eligible patients to hospice sooner after a terminal diagnosis augments the excellent care you are already giving those patients. At Avow, we do our best work when our caring team has a longer time to get to know patients and their families, to manage patients’ symptoms and help them prepare for their final days. Patients miss out on the benefits of our comprehensive services and support when the referral is made too late.

Avow’s hospice care team is available to provide a hospice consultation and patient evaluation. Call our admissions team or medical directors 24/7 at 239-261-4404.

To help you determine the earliest time a patient is hospice eligible, refer to the following information:

  • How to Estimate a Six-Month Prognosis
  • CMS Disease Specific Criteria
  • Decline in Clinical Status Guidelines
  • The Functional Assessment Staging (FAST) for Hospice
  • NYHA Functional Classification for Congestive Heart Failure
  • The Palliative Performance Scale

How to Estimate a Six-Month Prognosis (TOP)

A patient is eligible for hospice when: 

  1. In our best clinical judgement it is estimated that the patient has less than six months to live, and
  2. The patient chooses to forego aggressive curative treatment.
  3. Certification of a terminal illness is documented by an attending physician and hospice physician.

Patients will be considered to have a life expectancy of six months or less if there is documented evidence of decline in clinical status based on the guidelines listed below. Since determination of decline presumes assessment of the patient’s status over time, it is essential that both baseline and follow-up determinations be reported where appropriate. Baseline data may be established on admission to hospice or by using existing information from records. Other clinical variables not on this list may support a six-month or less life expectancy. These should be documented in the clinical record.

These changes in clinical variables apply to patients whose decline is not considered to be reversible. They are examples of findings that generally conotate a poor prognosis. However, some are clearly more predictive of a poor prognosis than others; significant ongoing weight loss is a strong predictor, while decreased functional status is less so.

Progression of disease as documented by worsening clinical status, symptoms, signs and laboratory results.

Clinical Status:

  1. Recurrent or intractable serious infections such as pneumonia, sepsis or pyelonephritis;
  2. Progressive inanition as documented by:
    • Weight loss of at least 10% body weight in the prior six months, not due to reversible causes such as depression or use of diuretics;
    • Decreasing anthropomorphic measurements (mid-arm circumference, abdominal girth), not due to reversible causes such as depression or use of diuretics;
    • Observation of ill-fitting clothes, decrease in skin turgor, increasing skin folds or other observation of weight loss in a patient without documented weight;
    • Decreasing serum albumin or cholesterol.
  3. Dysphagia leading to recurrent aspiration and/or inadequate oral intake documented by decreasing food portion consumption.
  4. Progressive stage 3-4 pressure ulcers in spite of optimal care.
  5. History of increasing ER visits, hospitalizations, or physician visits related to the hospice primary diagnosis prior to election of the hospice benefit.

Symptoms:

  1. Dyspnea with increasing respiratory rate;
  2. Cough, intractable;
  3. Nausea/vomiting poorly responsive to treatment;
  4. Diarrhea, intractable;

Signs:

  1. Pain requiring increasing doses of major analgesics more than briefly.
  2. Decline in systolic blood pressure to below 90 or progressive postural hypotension;
  3. Ascites;
  4. Venous, arterial or lymphatic obstruction due to local progression or metastatic disease;
  5. Edema;
  6. Pleural/pericardial effusion;
  7. Weakness;
  8. Change in level of consciousness.
    Laboratory (When available. Lab testing is not required to establish hospice eligibility.):
  9. Increasing pCO2 or decreasing pO2 or decreasing SaO2;
  10. Increasing calcium, creatinine or liver function studies;
  11. Increasing tumor markers (e.g. CEA, PSA);
  12. Progressively decreasing or increasing serum sodium or increasing serum potassium.

CMS Disease Specific Guidelines (LCDs) (TOP)

A patient is eligible for hospice services if he/she meets these three criteria:

  1. has a Palliative Performance Scale appropriate to diagnosis
  2. is dependent on at least two Activities of Daily Living, and
  3. meets the Disease Specific Guidelines below.

Cancer Diagnosis (LCDs) (TOP)

  1. Disease with metastases at presentation OR
  2. Progression from an earlier stage of disease to metastatic disease with either:
    1. A continued decline in spite of therapy; or
    2. Patient declines further disease directed therapy.

Note: Certain cancers with poor prognoses (e.g., small cell lung cancer, brain cancer and pancreatic cancer) may be hospice eligible without fulfilling the other criteria in this section.

Neurological Conditions (TOP)

General Considerations:

  1. End stage neurological conditions tends to progress in a linear fashion over time. Thus the overall rate of decline in each patient is fairly constant and predictable, unlike many other non-cancer diseases.
  2. However, no single variable deteriorates at a uniform rate in all patients. Therefore, multiple clinical parameters are required to judge the progression of end stage neurological conditions.
  3. Although end stage neurological conditions usually presents in a localized anatomical area, the location of initial presentation does not correlate with survival time. By the time patients become end-stage, muscle denervation has become widespread, affecting all areas of the body, and initial predominance patterns do not persist.
  4. Progression of disease differs markedly from patient to patient. Some patients decline rapidly and die quickly; others progress more slowly. For this reason, the history of the rate of progression in individual patients is important to obtain to predict prognosis.
  5. In end-state neurological conditions, two factors are critical in determining prognosis: ability to breathe, and to a lesser extent ability to swallow. The former can be managed by artificial ventilation, and the latter by gastrostomy or other artificial feeding, unless the patient has recurrent aspiration pneumonia. While not necessarily a contraindication to hospice care, the decision to institute either artificial ventilation or artificial feeding may significantly alter six month prognosis.
  6. Examination by a neurologist within three months of assessment for hospice is advised, both to confirm the diagnosis and to assist with prognosis.

Patients are considered eligible for hospice care if they do not elect tracheostomy and invasive ventilation and display evidence of critically impaired respiratory function (with or without use of NIPPV) and / or severe nutritional insufficiency (with or without use of a gastrostomy tube).

Critically impaired respiratory function is as defined by:

  1. FVC <40% predicted (seated or supine) and 2 or more of the following symptoms and/or signs:
    • Dyspnea at rest;
    • Orthopnea;
    • Use of accessory respiratory musculature;
    • Paradoxical abdominal motion;
    • Respiratory rate >20;
    • Reduced speech / vocal volume;
    • Weakened cough;
    • Symptoms of sleep disordered breathing;
    • Frequent awakening;
    • Daytime somnolence / excessive daytime sleepiness;
    • Unexplained headaches;
    • Unexplained confusion;
    • Unexplained anxiety;
  2. If unable to perform the FVC test patients meet this criterion if they manifest three or more of the above symptoms/signs.

Severe nutritional insufficiency is defined as: Dysphagia with progressive weight loss with or without election for gastrostomy tube insertion.
These revised criteria rely less on the measured FVC, and as such reflect the reality that not all patients with end stage neurological conditions can or will undertake regular pulmonary function tests.

Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders (TOP)

Patients will be considered to be in the terminal stage of dementia (life expectancy of six months or less) if they meet the following criteria.

1. Patients with dementia should show all the following characteristics:

    1. Stage seven or beyond according to the Functional Assessment Staging Scale;
    2. Unable to ambulate without assistance;
    3. Unable to dress without assistance;
    4. Unable to bathe without assistance;
    5. Urinary and fecal incontinence, intermittent or constant;
    6. No consistently meaningful verbal communication: stereotypical phrases only or the ability to speak is limited to six or fewer intelligible words.

2. Patients should have had hospitalizations due to one or more of the following within the past 12 months:

    1. Aspiration pneumonia;
    2. Pyelonephritis;
    3. Septicemia;
    4. Decubitus ulcers, multiple, stage 3-4;
    5. Fever, recurrent after antibiotics;
    6. Inability to maintain sufficient fluid and calorie intake with 10% weight loss during the previous six months or serum albumin <2.5 gm/dl.
    7. Multiple falls;

Note: FAST scale is specific for Alzheimers Disease and related disorders, and is NOT appropriate for other types of dementia.

HEART Disease (TOP)

Patients will be considered to be in the terminal stage of heart disease (life expectancy of six months or less) if they meet the following criteria. (1 and 2 should be present. Factors from 3 will add supporting documentation.)

  1. At the time of initial certification or recertification for hospice, the patient is or has been already optimally treated for heart disease, or are patients who are either not candidates for surgical procedures or who decline those procedures. (Optimally treated means that patients who are not on vasodilators have a medical reason for refusing these drugs, e.g. hypotension or renal disease.
  2. Patients with congestive heart failure or angina should meet the criteria for the New York Heart Association (NYHA) Class IV. (Class IV patients with heart disease have an inability to carry on any physical activity. Symptoms of heart failure or of the anginal syndrome may be present even at rest. If any physical activity is undertaken, discomfort is increased.) Significant congestive heart failure may be documented by an ejection fraction of less than or equal to 20%, but is not required if not already documented. Patients may qualify with an elevated ejection fraction if suffering from diastolic heart failure.
  3. Documentation of the following factors will support but is not required to establish eligibility for hospice care:
    1. Treatment-resistant symptomatic supraventricular or ventricular arrhythmias;
    2. History of cardiac arrest or resuscitation;
    3. History of unexplained syncope;
    4. Brain embolism of cardiac origin;
    5. Concomitant HIV disease.
  4. PPS score <= 40%

HIV Disease (TOP)

Patients will be considered to be in the terminal stage of their illness (life expectancy of six months or less) if they meet the following criteria.  (1 and 2 must be present; factors from 3 will add supporting documentation)

1. Clusters of differentiation 4 (CD4)+ Count 100,000 copies/ml, plus one of the following:

  1. CNS lymphoma
  2. Untreated, or not responsive to treatment, wasting (loss of 33% lean body mass)
  3. Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) bacteremia, untreated, unresponsive to treatment, or treatment refused
  4. Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy
  5. Systemic lymphoma, with advanced HIV disease and partial response to chemotherapy
  6. Visceral Kaposi’s sarcoma unresponsive to therapy
  7. Renal failure in the absence of dialysis
  8. Cryptosporidium infection
  9. Toxoplasmosis, unresponsive to therapy

2. Decreased performance status as measured by the Karnofsky Performance Status (KPS) scale, of ≤ 50.

3. Documentation of the following factors will support eligibility for hospice care:

  1. Chronic persistent diarrhea for one year
  2. Persistent serum albumin <2.5
  3. Concomitant, active substance abuse
  4. Age > 50 years
  5. Absence of antiretroviral, chemotherapeutic and prophylactic drug therapy related specifically to HIV disease
  6. Advanced AIDS dementia complex
  7. Toxoplasmosis
  8. Congestive heart failure, symptomatic at rest

Liver Disease (TOP)

Patients will be considered to be in the terminal stage of liver disease (life expectancy of six months or less) if they meet the following criteria. (1 and 2 should be present, factors from 3 will lend supporting documentation.)

  1. The patient should show both a and b:
    1. Prothrombin time prolonged more than 5 seconds over control, or International Normalized Ratio (INR) >1.5;
    2. Serum albumin <2.5 gm/dl.
  2. End stage liver disease is present and the patient shows at least one of the following:
    1. Ascites, refractory to treatment or patient non-compliant;
    2. Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis;
    3. Hepatorenal syndrome (elevated creatinine and BUN with oliguria (<400 ml/day) and urine sodium concentration <10 mEq/l);
    4. Hepatic encephalopathy, refractory to treatment, or patient non-compliant;
    5. Recurrent variceal bleeding, despite intensive therapy.
  3. Documentation of the following factors will support eligibility for hospice care:
    1. Progressive malnutrition;
    2. Muscle wasting with reduced strength and endurance;
    3. Continued active alcoholism (>80 gm ethanol/day);
    4. Hepatocellular carcinoma;
    5. HBsAg (Hepatitis B) positivity;
    6. Hepatitis C refractory to interferon treatment.

Pulmonary Disease (TOP)

Patients will be considered to be in the terminal stage of pulmonary disease (life expectancy of six months or less) if they meet the following criteria. The criteria refer to patients with various forms of advanced pulmonary disease who eventually follow a final common pathway for end stage pulmonary disease. (1 and 2 should be present. Documentation of 3, 4, and 5, will lend supporting documentation.)

  1. Severe chronic lung disease as documented by both a and b:
    1. Disabling dyspnea at rest, poorly or unresponsive to bronchodilators, resulting in decreased functional capacity, e.g., bed to chair existence, fatigue, and cough; (Documentation of Forced Expiratory Volume in One Second (FEV1), after bronchodilator, less than 30% of predicted is objective evidence for disabling dyspnea, but is not necessary to obtain.)
    2. Progression of end stage pulmonary disease, as evidenced by increasing visits to the emergency department or hospitalizations for pulmonary infections and/or respiratory failure or increasing physician home visits prior to initial certification.
  2. Hypoxemia at rest on room air, as evidenced by pO2 less than or equal to 55 mmHg, or oxygen saturation less than or equal to 88%, determined either by arterial blood gases or oxygen saturation monitors, (these values may be obtained from recent hospital records) OR hypercapnia, as evidenced by pCO2 greater than or equal to 50 mmHg. (This value may be obtained from recent [within 3 months] hospital records.)
  3. Right heart failure (RHF) secondary to pulmonary disease (Cor pulmonale) (e.g., not secondary to left heart disease or valvulopathy).
  4. Unintentional progressive weight loss of greater than 10% of body weight over the preceding six months.
  5. Resting tachycardia >100/min.

Chronic Kidney Disease (TOP)

(1 and either 2, 3 or 4 should be present. Factors from 5 will lend supporting documentation.)

  1. The patient is not seeking dialysis or renal transplant, or is discontinuing dialysis. As with any other condition, an individual with renal disease is eligible for the Hospice Benefit if that individual has a prognosis of six months or less, if the illness runs its normal course. There is no regulation precluding patients on dialysis from electing hospice care. However, the continuation of dialysis will significantly alter a patient’s prognosis, and thus potentially impact that individual’s eligibility.
    When an individual elects hospice care for end stage renal disease (ESRD) or for a condition to which the need for dialysis is related, the hospice agency is financially responsible for the dialysis. In such cases, there is no additional reimbursement beyond the per diem rate. The only situation in which a beneficiary may access both the Hospice Benefit and the ESRD benefit is when the need for dialysis is not related to the patient’s terminal illness.
  2. Creatinine clearance <10 cc/min (<15 cc/min. for diabetics); or <15cc/min (<20cc/min for diabetics) with comorbidity of congestive heart failure.
  3. Serum creatinine >8.0 mg/dl (>6.0 mg/dl for diabetics).
  4. Estimated glomerular filtration rate (GFR) <15 ml/min.
  5. Resting tachycardia >100/min.
  6. Signs and symptoms of kidney failure:
    1. Uremia;
    2. Oliguria (<400 cc/24 hours);
    3. Intractable hyperkalemia (>7.0) not responsive to treatment;
    4. Uremic pericarditis;
    5. Hepatorenal syndrome;
    6. Intractable fluid overload, not responsive to treatment.
  7. Comorbid conditions:
    1. Mechanical ventilation 2.5 gm/dl;
    2. Malignancy (other organ system);
    3. Chronic lung disease;
    4. Advanced cardiac disease;
    5. Advanced liver disease;
    6. Immunosuppression/AIDS;
    7. Albumin <3.5 gm/dl;
    8. Platelet count <25,000;
    9. Disseminated intravascular coagulation;
    10. Gastrointestinal bleeding.

Stroke and Coma (TOP)

Patients considered to be in the terminal stages of stroke or coma (with six months or less) if they meet the following:

Stroke

  1. Palliative Performance Scale (PPS) of <= 40%.
  2. Inability to maintain hydration and caloric intake with one of the following:
  3. Weight loss >=10% in the last 6 months;
  4. Serum albumin <2.5 gm/dl;
  5. Current history of pulmonary aspiration unresponsive to speech therapy;
  6. Sequential calorie counts documenting inadequate caloric/fluid intake;
  7. Dysphagia severe enough to prevent patient from continuing fluids/foods necessary to sustain life and patient does not receive artificial nutrition and hydration.

Coma (any etiology):

  1. Comatose patients with any 3 of the following on day three of coma:
    1. abnormal brain stem response;
    2. absent verbal response;
    3. absent withdrawal response to pain;
    4. serum creatinine >1.5 mg/dl.
  2. Documentation of the following factors will support eligibility for hospice care:
    1. Documentation of medical complications, in the context of progressive clinical decline, within the past 12 months, which support a terminal prognosis:
      1. Aspiration pneumonia;
      2. Pyelonephritis;
      3. Refractory stage 3-4 decubitus ulcers;
      4. Fever recurrent after antibiotics.
  3. Documentation of diagnostic imaging factors which support poor prognosis after stroke include:
    1. For non-traumatic hemorrhagic stroke:
      1. Evidence of hemorrhagic stroke on CT or MRI.
      2. Obstructive hydrocephalus in patient who declines, or is not a candidate for, ventriculoperitoneal shunt.
    2. For thrombotic/embolic stroke:
      1. Evidence of thrombotic/embolitic stroke on CT or MRI.

Palliative Performance Score (PPS) due to progression of disease.

* STANDARD ASSESSMENT TOOLS *
Functional Assessment Staging (FAST) (TOP)

  1. No difficulty either subjectively or objectively.
  2. Complains of forgetting location of objects. Subjective work difficulties.
  3. Decreased job functioning evident to co-workers. Difficulty traveling to new locations. Decreased organizational capacity.*
  4. Decreased ability to perform complex tasks (e.g. planning dinner for guests, handling personal finances, such as forgetting to pay bills, difficulty marketing, etc.).
  5. Requires assistance in choosing proper clothing to wear for the day, season, or occasion (e.g. may wear the same clothing repeatedly, unless supervised).*
  6. The following:
    1. Improperly putting on clothes without assistance or prompting (e.g. may put street clothes on over their night clothes, or put shoes on wrong fee, or have difficulty buttoning clothing) occasionally or more frequently over the past weeks.*
    2. Unable to bathe properly (e.g., difficulty adjusting bath-water temperature) occasionally or more frequently over the past weeks.*
    3. Inability to handle mechanics of toileting (e.g., forgets to flush the toilet, does not wipe properly or properly dispose of toilet tissue) occasionally or more frequently over the past weeks.*
    4. Urinary incontinence (occasionally or more frequently over the past weeks.)*
    5. Fecal incontinence (occasionally or more frequently over the past weeks.)*
  7. The following:
    1. Ability to speak limited to approximately a half dozen intelligible different words or fewer, in the course of an average day or in the course of an intensive interview.
    2. Speech ability is limited to the use of a single intelligible word in an average day or in the course of an intensive interview (may repeat the word over and over).
    3. Ambulatory ability is lost (cannot walk without personal assistance).
    4. Cannot sit up without assistance.
    5. Loss of ability to smile.
    6. Loss of ability to hold head up independently.

*Scored primarily on the basis of information obtained from knowledgeable informant.

New York Heart Association (NYHA) Functional Classification for Congestive Heart Failure (TOP)

Classification provides a simple way of classifying heart disease (originally cardiac failure). It places patients in one of four categories, based on how much they are limited during physical activity:

  • Class I: patients with no limitation of activities; they suffer no symptoms from ordinary activities.
  • Class II: patients with slight, mild limitation of activity; they are comfortable with rest or with mild exertion.
  • Class III: patients with marked limitation of activity; they are comfortable only at rest.
  • Class IV: patients who should be at complete rest, confined to bed or chair; any physical activity brings on discomfort and symptoms occur at rest.

Palliative Performance Scale (PPS) (TOP)

% Ambulation Activity Evidence of Disease Self-Care Intake Conscious Level
100 Full Normal Activity No evidence of disease Full Normal Full
90 Full Normal Activity Some evidence of disease Full Normal Full
80 Full Normal Activity with Effort Some evidence of disease Full Normal or reduced Full
70 Reduced Unable to do normal job/work Some evidence of disease Full Normal or reduced Full
60 Reduced Unable to do hobby/housework Significant disease Occasional assistance necessary Normal or reduced Full or confusion
50 Mainly Sit/Lie Unable to do any work Extensive disease Considerable assistance required Normal or reduced Full or confusion
% Ambulation Activity Evidence of Disease Self-Care Intake Conscious Level
40 Mainly in bed Unable to do any work Extensive disease Mainly assistance Normal or reduced Full or drowsy or confusion
30 Totally bed bound Unable to do any work Extensive disease Total care Reduced Full or drowsy or confusion
20 Totally bed bound Unable to do any work Extensive disease Total care Minimal sips Full or drowsy or confusion
10 Totally bed bound Unable to do any work Extensive disease Total care Mouth care only Drowsy or coma
0 Death

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Medication Formularies

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