AAHPM Winter Quarterly 2011 : Page 16
have been asked to help with their care, I explain the two broad categories of work that we do, namely assistance with pain and symptom management and helping them navigate very complex, often difficult healthcare decisions.” One Voice. One Message. hospice and palliative medicine work Physicians who specialize in with other doctors and healthcare professionals, Defining Palliative Care The other key challenge in defining hospice and pallia-tive care is finding the best way to differentiate palliative from hospice. Is palliative care the umbrella term and hospice a subset? Should they be spoken of only as indi-vidual types of care? What about the discussion of tak-ing the H out of HPC? “I don’t talk about hospice and palliative care. I talk about palliative care. I talk about hospice. I don’t use them together,” said AAHPM Past President Sean Mor-rison, MD FAAHPM. “The public gets very confused, and the target audiences for each are likely to be different.” “I’ve moved away from talking about end-of-life care in general descriptions of palliative care,” said AAHPM President-Elect Timothy E. Quill, MD FAAHPM. “I’m trying to more clearly differentiate palliative care from hospice, even though in reality there is a lot of overlap.” Some members rely not just on words but also on data to get their point across. “I refer to recent medical data that show hospice and palliative care are associated with improved quality of life and length of life. I also cite data showing hospice care is associated with the highest levels of family satisfaction,” said Daniel Fischberg, MD FAAHPM. Dr. Schumacher also said he tells patients that “research has shown that some patients who choose hospice live longer on average than similar patients who do not access hospice.” This, of course, is the opposite of what many believe. Chuck Wellman, MD FAAHPM, said there’s a miscon-ception that palliative care means “giving less care and patients will die more quickly.” In reality, palliative care provides more care, or as Dr. Morrison says, “an extra layer of support.” That layer of support can mean different things to different people, and what a palliative medicine specialist is and does depends on the situation. Again, it comes back to lis-tening to the audience. “It’s not about what we are, it’s about what the patient and family need when facing a serious, life-threatening illness,” Dr. Crossno said. Not a conventional definition, perhaps, but in many ways it is the essence of palliative care. listen to patients and align their treatments with what’s important to them, and help families navigate the complex healthcare system. Palliative care focuses on improving a patient’s quality of life by managing pain and other distressing symptoms of a serious illness. Palliative care should be provided along with other medical treatments. Hospice is palliative care for patients in their last year of life. Hospice care can be provided in patients’ homes, hospice centers, hospitals, long-term care facilities, or wherever a patient resides. In an effort to assist members with explaining the beneﬁts of hospice and palliative medicine, the Academy created this messaging for members’ use when they speak with the media, elected officials, and the general public. Takeaways A cardiologist treats conditions of the heart. A pediatri-cian treats children. Ask what a hospice and palliative medicine specialist does and the answers are rarely so succinct. Despite varied answers from AAHPM members, a few common themes come across: đŏ The best way to describe palliative care depends on the audience; it’s important to tailor the message based on their knowledge, understanding, and needs. đŏ Data that demonstrate the effectiveness of palliative care is an important tool in explaining its benefits. đŏ Those who have changed the way they explain palliative care say they talk less about end-of-life care than before. đŏ Palliative care is for all patients with serious illnesses, regardless of prognosis, and is provided with other treatments. Members can also access a new web resource to help them in talking to the media about hospice and palliative care. Visit the Members Only section of aahpm.org. Ruth Mugalian is principal of a Chicago-based public relations ﬁrm and provides counsel to several national medical societies, including AAHPM. Contact her at email@example.com.
Using a screen reader? Click Here