How Hospital Palliative Care Programs Drive Value

Christopher Cheney, for HealthLeaders Media , June 11, 2014

Turner West, director of Education and Community Programs at Lexington, KY-based Hospice of the Bluegrass, discusses how palliative care can drive value at hospitals in areas such as readmissions, mortality, and patient satisfaction.

Americans live in one of the most medically advanced societies in human history. But sometimes, there is no cure for what ails us.

For those times, there is palliative care, which aims to improve quality of life and contain healthcare provider costs for the most costly patients: Those suffering from serious chronic illnesses.

Palliative care, however, is undervalued. But as the drive toward value-based healthcare delivery continues, anything that is undervalued presents an opportunity.

Turner West, director of Education and Community Programs at Lexington, KY-based Hospice of the Bluegrass spoke with me last week as I was preparing for my upcoming webcast, Hospital-Hospice Collaboration to Improve Palliative Care Outcomes. It seemed only fitting to pepper him with questions.

CC: There are several serious chronic medical conditions that have no clear-cut cure. Does US medicine and the broader society need to redefine the common definition of cure?

West: Improvements in public health and advances in medicine have changed the way we die at the population level over the past century and consequently most of us will die from a chronic condition. Some medical conditions can be cured. Some can be treated by medication or interventions such that there is little effect on your day-to-day routine. And other conditions will be debilitating and adversely affect an individual's quality of life.

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