Expert Panel's Recommendations Highlight Need for Palliative Care
NIH State-of-Science Statement Released
New York, NY (April 7, 2005) — A National Institutes of Health (NIH) statement describing serious shortfalls in the quality of medical care provided to patients with life-threatening illness underlines the urgent need for more palliative care programs in the nation’s hospitals, according to the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC).
The NIH State-of-the-Science Consensus Statement said problems such as fragmentation of care delivery, poor communication between healthcare providers and patients, and limits to the Medicare hospice benefit should be addressed by ensuring the sickest patients have access to better quality care.
"Palliative care is the solution to these challenges. Palliative care programs strengthen communication among providers, patients and their families. These programs are structured to provide a systematic and interdisciplinary approach that ensures continuity of care," said Diane E. Meier, MD, FACP, Director of CAPC.
Palliative care aims to relieve suffering and improve quality of life for patients with advanced illness, and their families, and is offered in conjunction with all other appropriate forms of medical treatment. Palliative care has been shown to produce high satisfaction ratings among patients and families, lower costs for hospitals and payers, and meet pain and other quality standards developed by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO).
The number of palliative care programs increased 90 percent from 1998 to 2003, and today one in five hospitals have palliative care programs. By 2030 it is expected that the number of people in the U.S. over the age of 85 will double to 8.5 million.
"The number of palliative care programs is growing, but not fast enough to meet the needs of the increasing number of patients who have advanced chronic illness but can still benefit from life-prolonging care, or for those who do not have the clear prognosis that the hospice benefit requires," said Meier.
Palliative care can meet the demands of this growing population by addressing all stages of advanced illness through combined communication and coordination in quality care delivery. The NIH panel recommended funding further research on palliative care’s impact on chronic illness.
The Center to Advance Palliative Care, located at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine (NY), is a national initiative of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, providing hospitals and other healthcare settings with tools and technical assistance to develop hospital-based palliative care programs. www.capc.org.
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