5 ways to improve the palliative-care patient experience

Palliative care providers can significantly reduce their patients' risk of unnecessary physical and emotional discomfort if they meet 10 quality measures, according to new research published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management.

The research is the result of "Measuring What Matters," a two-year project led by School of Nursing Independence Foundation Chair for Nursing/Palliative Care Sally A. Norton, Ph.D. ,R.N. Beginning with a list of 75 quality indicators, Norton and her team reduced the list to 10.

"We identified the best available set of measures to help us evaluate whether we are delivering the very highest quality care to patients who have palliative care needs and their families," Norton said in a statement.

Of the 10 recommendations, five include:

  1. Hospice and palliative care patients should receive comprehensive physical, social, spiritual, functional and psychological assessments soon after admission
  2. Seriously ill patients should be screened for symptoms such as pain, nausea and shortness of breath as part of their admission visits
  3. Patients whose illnesses are advanced or life-threatening and whose screenings indicate shortness of breath should develop a plan for managing it
  4. Seriously ill patients should document their preferences regarding life-sustaining care
  5. Providers should give hospice/palliative care patients or their families a relevant survey to assess their care experience

Such guidelines are also useful in other care settings; a 2014 study found healthcare workers improved patient outcomes in four areas after training in palliative care, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

But palliative care is not one size fits all, according to the Wall Street Journal. Most palliative care models are designed for adults, and more generally perceived as only for hospice patients in terminal condition, which means organizations must adapt pediatric palliative care. For example, while most adult palliative care patients have cancer, children typically have genetic or neurological diseases, which means patients and their families have to deal with a broad array of specialists, complicating the decision-making process. Pediatric palliative-care teams help simplify and clarify these processes for families, according to the article.

To learn more:
- here's the study abstract
- read the statement
- check out the WSJ article