New Policy Brief Highlights Need for Palliative Care for People with Advanced Illnesses

August 9, 2016

High quality, evidence-based care that improves patient outcomes and is consistent with patient values, preferences and goals and aligns with the mission of Compassion & Choices and the American Heart Association (AHA). That’s why Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee joined other healthcare leaders in collaborating with the AHA to produce produce a new policy brief about how palliative care is patient and family-centered care that optimizes health-related quality of life by anticipating, preventing and treating suffering in people with advanced illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Through communication, shared decision-making, advance care planning, and attention to distress (physical, emotional, spiritual or psychological), palliative care can help patients and their families address treatment options, long term prognoses and other health challenges.

The policy brief notes that palliative care is greatly underutilized:

  • In hospitals reporting palliative care teams, an average of 3.4 percent of admissions receive palliative care services even though estimates place the need for palliative care between 7.5 percent and 8.0 percent of hospital admissions.
  • For-profit, southern United States, and small and safety-net hospitals (fewer than 100 beds) are less likely to report hospital palliative care programs.

The policy brief concludes several barriers exist to patients receiving palliative care. They include:

  • Reluctance of providers to refer patients to palliative care due to lack of knowledge about benefits or availability of services.
  • Limitations in payment systems for comprehensive palliative care services.
  • Provider discomfort in communicating with patients and families about palliative care.
  • Lack of awareness by patients and families around palliative care services who may inaccurately assume they are not eligible as these services are so often equated with hospice.

Compassion & Choices’ Federal Policy Agenda for 2016 is a roadmap for achieving patient-centered, family-oriented end-of-life care that empowers individuals and honors their choices. Guided by the Institute of Medicine’s 2014 report Dying in America, our agenda challenges policymakers to improve end-of-life care through actions in five areas:

  • Delivery of person-oriented, family-centered care.
  • Clinician-patient communication and advance care planning.
  • Professional education and development for healthcare professionals.
  • Policies and payment systems that are value-based, not volume-based.
  • Public education and engagement on end-of-life care issues for individuals and their caregivers.

Click here to read our full Federal Policy Agenda.

Compassion & Choices
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