Dr. Joseph Miller Brings Small-town Touch to Hillcrest Hospice

Being a doctor in a small town can mean dealing with a variety of health concerns, from colds to broken bones to pregnancies.

Dr. Joseph Miller, MD, FAAFP, HMDC, knows all about the ups and downs of being a physician in a small town. He was a full-spectrum rural family physician in Lexington, Nebraska, for 32 years with Plum Creek Medical Group. He did inpatient, outpatient and emergency department medicine, dealing with trauma, heart attacks and strokes, alongside the everyday health issues.

In 2016, he moved to Omaha and started working at Think Whole Person Healthcare, an Accountable Care Organization where they emphasize primary care to keep patients healthy and out of the hospital. He was the chief medical officer there for three years. After leaving Think, he was “retired” for roughly eight months.

Then he received a call from Hillcrest. He was hired on as an associate hospice medical director and later promoted to medical director.

Dr. Miller recently received his Hospice Medical Director Certification. He is one of only seven Nebraska physicians recognized for achieving this certification in hospice and palliative care.

This achievement is one of many examples of Dr. Miller’s dedication to providing superior and holistic patient-centered care. It is also a testament of his dedication to developing better relationships with his patients.

One model of care he developed an interest in while practicing in Lexington is the patient-centered medical home model. PCMH is designed to build better relationships between patients and their clinical care teams. Not only does it help improve the quality of the patient experience and team satisfaction, it also helps reduce health care costs.

During his time there, he said he cared for many fourth-generations of families and a five-generation family at one point.

“As a family physician, I have had the sacred privilege to be present at the most important times in peoples’ lives, birth, tragedy, new diagnoses and death,” Dr. Miller said.

He added that he also had the honor of delivering three babies to three women whom he had delivered as babies. Though he has delivered more than 1,000 babies, it’s clear his time with patients, and their families, at their time of passing influenced him greatly.

“I like meeting with patients and families, especially younger hospice patients…learning their goals and helping them achieve those goals,” he said. 

Quality hospice care encompasses more than the boundaries of medicine. It takes a multidisciplinary team to support patients and their families during life’s most vulnerable moments. Dr. Miller’s experience and knowledge contribute greatly to providing that support.

He said he enjoys teaching and sharing his experience with other team members.

“Hopefully, in 40 years, I have learned from my successes and mistakes and can pass that knowledge and wisdom on to my younger teammates while I continue to learn from them,” he said.

When he left Lexington, Dr. Miller had more than 40 patients age 90 or older.

“Family medicine is from prenatal to post-death,” he said. “We really should use [the term] end-of-life care, not hospice.”

Learn about Hillcrest Hospice at hillcresthospice.com or find information on the Hospice Medical Director certification at hmdcb.org