In-hospital palliative care quadruples

Hospitals are creating palliative care teams at a breakneck pace, raising some questions about how they are affecting overall finances, reported the Associated Press. Nearly two-thirds of the nation's hospitals had palliative care teams in place in 2008, about a four-fold increase since 2000.

Palliative care advocates claim such programs put a face on healthcare delivery, according to the article.

"Patients see a different person for every single part of their body or every problem. The patient as a whole person gets lost," Diane Meier, a physician who is the director of the Center to Advance Palliative Care at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, told the AP.

"The patient is a person, not a problem list, not a list of different organ systems with different problems, not a list of different diseases. So we end up serving in a quarterback role for the entire medical system," she said.

However, some critics of integrating palliative care into hospitals say it can undermine big-ticket procedures.

"The economic incentives clearly favor doing aggressive medical interventions like this," said Timothy Quill, a pallative care physician at the University of Rochester Medical Center. "Palliative care, it's all conversation. And conversation is not compensated in the same way that doing procedures is in our system right now."

But the palliative care push also is relieving the huge cost of cancer drugs and other treatments for terminally ill patients in the last months of life, reported The Fiscal Times.

Younger physicians are fueling the push for increased palliative care, with about 12 percent of the physicians certified in hospice and palliative care in 2010 now 36 or younger, according to the latest data available from the American Board of Medical Specialties. That number has doubled in two years and is expected to grow dramatically, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

For more information:
- read the AP article
- read the Fiscal Times article

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