Can We Break Down the Barriers to Beneficial Palliative Care?

By Kindred Healthcare tags:
 Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President, Kindred Healthcare Nursing Center Division
Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President
Kindred Healthcare Nursing Center Division
 
Palliative care was the subject of a presentation this morning at Kindred’s Clinical Impact Symposium – Care Across the Continuum. The speakers, Mark Rothman, MD, Chief Medical Officer for Kindred’s Nursing Center Division, and Bonnie Austin, Senior Director of Compliance and Interim Senior Director of Clinical Services at PeopleFirst Homecare and Hospice, described some of the barriers that clinicians, patients and families face in accessing palliative care, and they addressed the importance of appropriate utilization of palliative care.

 

Both Dr. Rothman and Ms. Austin gave examples of real patients who were good candidates for palliative care but who may have faced obstacles in obtaining it, often caused by a pervasive lack of understanding of what palliative care offers. One study the speakers cited showed that 70 percent of consumers surveyed did not know what palliative care is, Ms. Austin said, and healthcare professionals are often uninformed as well.

Some barriers to the use of palliative care are:

  • Lack of awareness among consumers and patients with serious illness that palliative care services exist
  • Confusion about the meaning of the term “palliative care.” It is often framed as “end-of-life care”
  • Physician attitudes about palliative care

As important as what palliative care is may be what it is not:

  • It is not about getting the do-not-resuscitate order signed
  • It is not hospice care, which comes into play only after curative therapy is abandoned

It is not about withholding care that patients could benefit from

 Bonnie Austin Senior Director of Compliance and Interim Senior Director of Clinical Services, PeopleFirst Homecare and Hospice
Bonnie Austin Senior Director of Compliance and Interim Senior Director of Clinical Services, PeopleFirst Homecare and Hospice

 

According to the speakers, some triggers for palliative care consults might include:

  • Recurrent infections
  • Non-healing wounds
  • Recurrent hospitalizations
  • Psychosocial emotional and spiritual distress
  • Need for coordination of care
  • Unclear goals of care

Palliative care has the potential to reduce high levels of suffering and distress; improves communications among patients, families and health care providers; and addresses the needs of family caregivers as they cope with care for a loved one with a serious illness, the speakers said.

For more information about palliative care and what Kindred is doing through its PeopleFirst Homecare and Hospice Division, please see our previous blog posts on palliative care topics:

Palliative Care Summit Brings Together Leaders From Across the Continuum

The Importance of Integrating Palliative Care for Chronically Critically ill Patients