Simply put, palliative care relieves the suffering of patients. It is appropriate care for patients in all disease stages, including those undergoing treatment for curable illnesses.
Patients may suffer from chronic diseases that gradually progress until the end of life. Palliative medicine utilizes a “team” approach by developing a treatment plan to relieve pain and suffering. The palliative care team focuses on quality of life by addressing physical and emotional issues inherent in the illness. Many times, the patient has a caregiver following discharge, with social issues addressed in the overall plan.
The palliative team includes a specialized physician, nurse, social worker, pharmacist and chaplain, providing supplemental support to the primary care physician.
Palliative care continues to grow in hospitals across the U.S. This specialized program has not met the requirements for traditional reimbursement models. Piecemeal payments for hospice, home health, physician services and clinical research grants have provided minimal payments for services.
Palliative care programs will be a prized asset in managing many patients as we move to value-based models for reimbursement. These programs will help in reducing readmissions for chronic diseases and provide better outcomes in medical homes. Including these palliative programs in accountable care organizations will also assist in overall better patient care coordination.
Evidence-based treatment models with predictable outcomes will provide the necessary goals for patient care, including the important component of palliative care. Capitation, bundled payments and payment coordination for provider services align nicely with palliative care treatment goals. As we continue to reform our health care delivery system, palliative care must be included so we enhance the patient’s quality of life.