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For 25 years, VITAS Healthcare has been a leader in the American hospice movement, helping to define the standards of care for hospice and working to ensure that terminally ill patients and their families have ready access to compassionate and effective end-of-life care through Medicare and Medicaid.
VITAS was founded in 1978 as Hospice Care, Inc., one of the nation's first hospice programs. The name, VITAS, is derived from the Latin word for
lives. It symbolizes the VITAS mission: to preserve the quality of life for those who have a limited time to live.
As a hospice pioneer, VITAS was instrumental in leading a bi-partisan effort to add hospice to the healthcare payment system. As a result of these efforts, Medicare pays for hospice services, many states have established Medicaid coverage for hospice, and virtually all private insurers and managed care plans provide coverage for hospice care. 
The origin of VITAS dates back to 1976, when Hugh A. Westbrook, an ordained United Methodist minister, and Esther T. Colliflower, a registered nurse, saw a void in the treatment of people with terminal illnesses. While affiliated with Miami-Dade Community College, they organized a group of volunteers who also were interested in pursuing better ways to care for the dying. The group began caring for patients who were willing to be part of this reciprocal agreement: If "the group" would help them to remain comfortably at home until they died, the patients would teach "the group" how to care for them. In 1978, Westbrook and Colliflower formed a hospice in Miami and two years later expanded to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

As they led this cause locally, Westbrook and Colliflower also became active in the national hospice movement, where they met Don Gaetz, a hospital administrator who shared their interest in hospice.

In 1979, Westbrook and Gaetz worked to secure passage in Florida of the first hospice licensure law in any state.

  • Ongoing company-generated research on more effective methods of controlling pain--involving physicians, nurses, clinical pharmacists and social workers.
  • Development of proprietary tools and protocols, including a pain formulary, analgesic dosage conversion ruler, wound formulary, guidelines for Intensive Palliative Care® and electronic patient records.
  • Development of a proprietary information management system, VITAS Exchange or Vx, which provides real-time communication of patient information and supports the efficient delivery of high-quality services to patients in disparate locations.
  • Specialized care programs for patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), AIDS, Alzheimer's and Congestive Heart Failure (CHF).
  • Programs that actively involve patients and families in redefining and improving the services we offer.
  • Professional education through seminars, group case reviews and a specialized library of clinical literature.
  • Specialized training and formal credentialing of all VITAS employees involved in patient care.
  • Bereavement programs to meet the needs of friends and family members after their loved one has died.
VITAS provides care for adult and pediatric patients with a wide range of life-limiting illnesses, including but not limited to cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung, liver and kidney disease, multiple sclerosis, ALS, Alzheimer's and AIDS.
  • Patients and families come first.
  • We take care of each other.
  • I'll do my best today and do even better tomorrow.
  • I am proud to make a difference.

Headquartered in Miami, Florida, VITAS serves patients from 25 hospice programs in major metropolitan cities in eight states--California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin.
With an average daily census of more than 7,600 patients, VITAS provided end-of-life and bereavement care to more than 120,000 patients and family members in 2002. More than half of VITAS' patients receive care in their homes, and nearly 40 percent receive care in skilled nursing and assisted living facilities.
If, at some point, a patient needs more constant care, VITAS can provide shifts of hospice staff for a brief period to help the patient through this demanding time at home, rather than transferring the patient to a hospital. If a patient needs care beyond what can be provided at home, VITAS has special arrangements with local hospitals and other facilities where patients may receive necessary and appropriate care and return home as soon as possible.
As the nation's largest hospice provider, VITAS employs more than 5,300 people.

VITAS Healthcare Corporation, 100 South Biscayne Boulevard, Suite 1500 Miami, FL 33131 USA  Phone: +1 (305) 374-4143   Toll free (in the USA and Canada): + 1 (800) 93 - VITAS

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