GLENS FALLS -- Hudson Headwaters Health Network and Glens Falls Hospital are jointly developing a palliative care service to coordinate care for patients with chronic illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and emphysema.
“There’s a whole specialty that’s grown up around making sure patients have the counseling and the perspective and also the medications and the care,” said Dr. John Rugge, chief executive officer of Hudson Headwaters, a chain of health centers in Warren, Washington, Saratoga, Essex, Hamilton and Clinton counties.
The goal is to have the program up and running in early 2014, Rugge said.
“We are already doing our first set of interviews for new providers in the community,” he said.
Palliative care is a treatment approach that focuses on managing pain and improving the quality of life for chronically ill patients and their families, with a joint focus on physical, psychological and spiritual aspects, according to the World Health Organization.
A team of doctors, nurses and counselors is involved.
Hospice care for terminally ill patients can be part of palliative care, but patients in palliative care aren’t necessarily considered terminal, Rugge said.
“Hospice is a component of that. But this goes beyond people who are at the very end of life and beyond people who are now giving up on curative care all together,” he said.
Palliative care is paid for through the patient’s health insurance company, while hospice is paid for through Medicare, he said.
It is not yet clear how many people will be hired for the new program, he said.
Planning for the new program is still preliminary, said Darlene Raynsford, a Glens Falls Hospital spokeswoman.
“We are in the beginning stages of collaborating with Hudson Headwaters Health Network on palliative care — an area we have both identified as an opportunity to provide enhanced programs and services to our patients,” she said. “We look forward to exploring the concept of bringing this service to our region together.”
The palliative care service is their second joint initiative as the two health care providers explore ways to collaborate.
Hudson Headwaters and the hospital announced Sept. 12 they have completed a five-year agreement for the hospital to be the primary processor of lab tests ordered at area Hudson Headwater health centers.
Hudson Headwaters had in the past contracted with Glens Falls Hospital for lab services, but switched to Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh about three years ago.
The hospital will begin processing lab work Oct. 1 for the Health Center on Broad Street in Glens Falls, Queensbury Family Health and West Mountain Primary Care in Queensbury and Moreau Family Health in Moreau.
Lab work for other Hudson Headwaters centers in Warren and Hamilton counties will be phased in by the end of the year, with the exception of North Country Obstetrics and Gynecology in Glens Falls, which is not included in the contract, according to a press release.
The agreement will make it easier for specialists at Glens Falls Hospital to see lab results for Hudson Headwaters patients, Rugge said.
It also will improve finances for the hospital, which had been operating at a deficit.
Neither Rugge nor Raynsford, the hospital spokeswoman, would disclose the value of the contract, which will encompass more than 100,000 lab tests annually.
“It’s significant,” said Rugge.
Asked to be more specific, he said he was hesitant to estimate the value.
“I think the hospital does a better job of calculating what the numbers are than I would. They do the bookkeeping and all that,” he said.
“It is too soon to tell the financial impact that the lab contract will have at this point,” Raynsford said.
Rugge said Hudson Headwaters and hospital officials have been discussing collaboration for about a year.
“We think there are a lot of ways, some of which we are moving along on and some of which are going to take some time,” he said.