Stronger together: How collaboration is helping nonprofit hospices thrive

By working, sharing, and planning together, the California Hospice Network can help ensure that all Californians have access to the exceptional end-of-life care they deserve.

by Gia Martucci

After nearly 20 years, Gwendolyn Kaltoft, chief of quality, compliance, and education, was set to retire from her post at YoloCares, a nonprofit community-based hospice in Davis, California. A determined and spirited woman, she had watched YoloCares balloon from a census of 30 to 130 over two decades and led the development of YoloCares’ community-based palliative care program, the first of its kind in Northern California.

The leadership team feared the departure may hinder the agency’s quality and compliance initiatives as they attempted to navigate the loss of not only an excellent leader, but also a wealth of organizational knowledge and expertise.

Fortunately, YoloCares’ affiliation with the California Hospice Network offered more than enough support for the incoming director.

“Losing a person with that type of institutional knowledge can be devastating for an agency, especially around the area of quality and compliance. It’s a niche subject matter to find an expert in but our colleagues at the California Hospice Network were able to help us bridge the gap,” says Craig Dresang, CEO of YoloCares.

Over the next year, quality and compliance leaders from Mission Hospice & Home Care and Hospice of Santa Cruz County, two other affiliates from the California Hospice Network, provided coaching for the new director, ensuring that all three agencies were sharing best practices to maintain the high caliber of care delivery expected from the legacy hospices.

“The level of professional mentorship and support our new director received was unparalleled and would not have been possible without collaboration from our sister agencies,” says Dresang.

This is just one example of how alliances like the California Hospice Network, a strategic partnership of like-minded nonprofit hospices, serve each individual organization. Along with collaboration around best practices, the agencies are developing new and innovative ways to bolster the partnership to remain competitive in the ever-changing hospice industry.

From a shared IT help desk that provides around-the-clock technical support to over 330 employees daily, to the pooling of community offerings like workshops and seminars that now reach a far greater audience, the California Hospice Network is working to improve the experiences of employees and community members alike.

As the Network looks towards its next shared venture—a unified palliative care program—the biggest beneficiaries will be the patients.

Palliative care offers an extra level of support for people with serious, life-limiting illnesses who may still be pursuing curative treatments. It includes pain and symptom management, spiritual and emotional support, and referral to community resources. Unfortunately, the availability of palliative care programs is limited, as the payment models for such care are still developing.

While the lack of reimbursement for palliative care keeps many profit-minded hospices from offering it, community-grounded hospices recognize that palliative care can be a game changer for chronically ill people in helping them manage disease symptoms, access additional support to navigate their healthcare needs, and understand their disease progression.

However, the level of trust and collaboration needed to develop a shared clinical operation requires a solid foundation. Fortunately for the California Hospice Network, inspiration and wisdom can be found in other states as similar partnerships have blossomed across the U.S. over the last decade in response to the growing privatization of end-of-life care.

The Texas Non-Profit Hospice Alliance (TNPHA) is one such example of a thriving affiliation of like-minded hospices. Formed in 1995, TNPHA now unites 20 agencies across Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana, and boasts a unique structure that guarantees intimate collaboration: no sister hospices compete against one another.

“There is an incredible level of trust around the TNPHA table,” says Kirsti Krejs, CEO. “Our members can share the good and bad and are always ready to help one another. There’s constant support and backup.”

Together, the agencies of TNPHA go beyond acting as sounding boards; their joint power affords them opportunities to come together for professional development, cost sharing of speakers and consultants, and most importantly: a collaborative approach to quality improvement. Agencies frequently share data points and performance improvement plans, giving individual agencies the support and guidance needed to maintain and grow their quality scores.

“The nonprofit model of care is so different from profit-minded hospices in that collaboration is at the heart of what we do. Everything we can do together only makes us stronger,” says Krejs.

Explains California Hospice Network CEO Mike Milward: “That ‘stronger together’ mindset is exactly why we established the California Hospice Network. By working, sharing, and planning together, we can help ensure that all Californians have access to the exceptional end-of-life care they deserve.”

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About California Hospice Network 5 Articles
The California Hospice Network was formed in 2019 as a strategic partnership committed to sustaining local nonprofit, community-based hospice care in California. The network’s founding member organizations are trusted leaders in the communities they have served for more than 40 years. Aligned in their mission and values, the network members are working, sharing, and planning together to create stronger community hospices that deliver exceptional patient care and end-of-life services.