Aspen Institute Health Strategy Group Releases Recommendations on Improving End-of-Life Care

February 25, 2017

The report details policy and culture changes for end-of-life care

Contact: Douglas Farrar
Senior Manager, Communications and Public Affairs
The Aspen Institute
202 736 3848 |

Washington, DC, February 25, 2017 – The Aspen Health Strategy Group (AHSG), an initiative of the Aspen Institute’s Health, Medicine and Society program, has released its inaugural report, Improving Care at the End of Life. Led by AHSG co-chairs and former US Secretaries of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Tommy G. Thompson, the group of 23 senior leaders undertook a 2016 study of the topic, culminating in the report that includes both background papers by experts in the field and a set of five big ideas to transform care for people with serious illness at the end of their lives.

“Care for people with serious illness approaching the end of life needs to change,” said co-chair Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “The Aspen Health Strategy Group report offers five big ideas that will help catalyze that change. Our group encourages policymakers and private sector leaders alike to embrace and act on these ideas which are designed to tackle a very difficult and complex issue that cannot be avoided and must be addressed.”

“Our health system has not kept pace with the needs of those approaching the end of life – needs that go beyond basic medical care,” said co-chair Secretary Tommy G. Thompson. “The Aspen Health Strategy Group’s mission is to promote improvements in health policy and practice; we chose end-of-life care as our first topic for study because there is a pressing need for the system to improve. Adoption and implementation of the group’s five big ideas will help us get there.”

The Group’s five recommendations include:

  1. Incorporate advance care planning (including an advance directive or living will) into the fabric of medical and everyday American culture.
  2. Improve Medicare coverage to include the social supports and care coordination necessary to meet the complex needs of people with serious illnesses.
  3. Develop a set of end-of-life care quality metrics that can be used for accountability, transparency, improvement, and payment.
  4. Increase the number and types of health professionals with expertise in those services required by a growing and more medically complicated aging population.
  5. Support and promote model communities that are re-designing end-of-life care systems for people with advanced illnesses.

A detailed discussion about these ideas and the report, Improving Care at the End of Life, can be accessed here:

In addition to the co-chairs, members of the Aspen Health Strategy Group include Marcia Angell, former Editor-in-Chief, New England Journal of Medicine; Rich Baron, President and CEO, American Board of Internal Medicine; Mark Bertolini, Chairman and CEO, Aetna; Richard Besser, Chief Health and Medical Editor, ABC News and pediatrician; Dena Bravata, CMO & Co-founder, Lyra Health; Toby Cosgrove, President and CEO, Cleveland Clinic; Susan DeVore, President and CEO, Premier Inc.; Deborah DiSanzo, General Manager, IBM Health; Victor Dzau, President, National Academy of Medicine (formerly, the Institute of Medicine); Judy Faulkner, Founder and CEO, EPIC; Harvey Fineberg, President, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation; Kenneth Frazier, Chairman and CEO, Merck; Helene Gayle, CEO, McKinsey Social Initiative; Paul Ginsburg, Professor of Public Policy and Director of Public Policy, Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at the University of Southern California and Leonard D. Schaeffer Chair in Health Policy Studies and Director, Center for Health Policy at the Brookings Institution; Sister Carol Keehan, President and CEO, Catholic Health Association; David Lansky, President and CEO, Pacific Business Group on Health; Larry Merlo, President, CVS Health; Siddhartha Mukherjee, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Columbia University and Pulitzer Prize Winner (The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer); Arne Sorenson, President and CEO, Marriott International, Inc.; Andy Stern, President Emeritus, SEIU; Jeff Thompson, Former CEO, Gundersen Health System; Bernard Tyson, Chairman and CEO, Kaiser Permanente; and Antonia Villarruel, Dean, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing

The Health, Medicine and Society (HMS) Program at the Aspen Institute, established in 2005, is the principal domestic health initiative at the Aspen Institute. Rigorously nonpartisan, HMS creates opportunities for government, academic, advocacy, and industry leaders to explore critical issues in health, health care, medical science, and health policy, and to consider their impact on individuals, families, and communities across the United States. For more information, visit 

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit

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