the torch Spring 2017, Issue 1 - Page 18

Innovative approach to improving serious illness care

When one faces a serious illness , “ Plan A ” is to utilize the powers of modern medicine to try to restore health .
Equally important are the conversations that physicians have with their patients regarding their wishes for everything from symptom control to long-term care planning to help improve their quality of life .
The answers for each of these difficult questions will vary from person to person , and oftentimes , physicians and family members don ’ t know what ’ s most important to the patient in these circumstances . In palliative care , we pose these questions to our patients facing
Dr . Atul Gawande serious illness – and the earlier the better – so their wishes are understood long before a crisis occurs .
Physicians outside of palliative care know it ’ s important to have these discussions , but many have difficulty starting them and aren ’ t sure what to say , according to a recent national poll . In the U . S ., we ’ re currently faced with a significant shortage of specialty palliative care providers , so it is critical for other medical professionals to also be trained to care for the most seriously ill patients . A New Palliative Care Program To improve the care of seriously ill
18 patients and their families , Baylor Scott & White Health is the first health system in the U . S . to implement the Serious Illness Conversation and Care Planning Program , developed by Ariadne Labs , a joint center of Brigham and Women ’ s Hospital and Harvard T . H . Chan School of Public Health .
The program trains specialists outside of palliative care — family practitioners , internists , cardiologists , oncologists , geriatricians and others who care for seriously ill patients — across the Baylor Scott & White system to have more frequent , better and earlier conversations about their patients ’ goals and end-of-life care wishes .
“ Serious illness care demands communication expertise , not just at a moment of crisis , but long before a crisis occurs ,” said Robert Fine , M . D ., clinical director of the Office of Clinical Ethics and Palliative Care for Baylor Scott & White . “ The Serious Illness Conversation and Care Planning Program allows Baylor Scott & White to take a population health approach to give more patients and families facing serious illness the opportunity to make informed choices that reflect their values , reduce suffering , enhance family well-being and improve their quality of life , even if a cure might not be possible .”