Will Palliative Care Attract Converts?


Will Palliative Care Attract Converts?

Monday, October 24th, 2011 - 16:42
Monday, October 24, 2011 - 16:17
A different approach to caring for the seriously and chronically ill - will it be part of health reform's makeover?

Relatively few lines of the Affordable Care Act address the burgeoning field of palliative care for the seriously and chronically ill. Palliative care, sometimes confused with hospice care for those in their final six months of life, attempts to balance advanced medical care while relieving suffering and improving quality of life. The Los Angeles Times explores the "promises and pitfalls" facing this relatively young area of medicine in a fascinating report.

The issue is especially important to health reform and the federal health programs of Medicare and Medicaid because of the potential for significant cost savings. According to the prestigious Institute of Medicine, a fully integrated network of palliative clinical care in the nation's hospitals would reduce health expenditures by $6 billion per year. Even so, billions of dollars still only represents a fraction of a nearly $3 trillion health care system.

The bigger question about palliative care is whether it can reduce utilization for the sickest of patients, while providing better quality of life for patients. Palliative care proponents cite statistics and anecdotal evidence that emphasizes a more holistic approach to managing the patient over an extended period time. Detractors worry that the care is used to push patients towards hospice or simply a way for payers to save on costs.