New palliative care guidelines emphasize continuity, collaboration

While the palliative care field continues to grow, hospitals are urged to follow updated clinical practice guidelines from the National Consensus Project for Palliative Care (NCP) to improve palliative care services.

In the first update since 2009, the new guidelines reflect changes under the Affordable Care Act and the opportunity for palliative care programs to participate in new payment and delivery models, such as accountable care organizations, bundled-payment systems and patient-centered medical homes.

The new guidance promotes continuity of palliative care across all settings, emphasizing collaboration within and among hospitals, community centers, hospices and home health agencies, the NCP said.

The NCP also significantly expanded best practices for psychological and psychiatric aspects of palliative care to enhance the collaborative assessment of psychological concerns and psychiatric diagnoses, including developing and offering a bereavement care plan prior to and for at least 13 months after a patient's death.

Under the new guidelines, the interdisciplinary team, which includes a properly trained chaplain, has more responsibility to evaluate and address a patient and family's spiritual needs.

The guidelines also provide more information on what populations are best served by palliative care, the structure and processes of palliative care, and the ethical and legal aspects of care, AHA News Now reported.

Hospital executives should disseminate the updated best practices among their clinical leaders and adjust hospital policies accordingly, the American Hospital Association advised in the AHA News Now brief.

However, the evolving palliative care field is facing a workforce shortage, with only one palliative care doctor for every 1,300 patients with a serious illness, according to the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine Workforce Task Force. The healthcare industry needs another 18,000 palliative care doctors to meet demand, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

For more:
- here's the AHA News Now brief
- check out the guidelines