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Improving palliative patient care

Palliative care providers are part of an extremely important system designed to help seriously ill individuals manage pain, treat symptoms and lead the highest-quality life possible. New research published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management found that caregivers could reduce patients' risk of emotional and physical discomfort by adhering to a consensus set of quality care indicators. These measures would set a standard for quality care assessment, and would also act as guidelines for hospices and hospitals looking to improve care.

The research is the result of a two-year project led by the School of Nursing's Independence Foundation Chair for Nursing and Palliative Care, Sally A. Norton. Norton and her team began with a list of 75 quality indicators, which they then whittled down to a major 10. In a statement to the University of Rochester Medical Center Norton stated, "We identified the best available set of measures to help us evaluate whether we are delivering the very highest quality care to patients who have palliative care needs and their families."

Here are a few of the 10 indicators outlined in the research:

  • Palliative care patients should receive physical, social, spiritual, functional and psychological assessments immediately after admission.
  • Seriously ill patients should be screened for simple symptoms such as pain, nausea and shortness of breath as a part of their visits.
  • Patients should be able to document their preferences regarding life-sustaining care, and doctors should adhere to those preferences.
  • Providers should offer patients and families surveys to assess care experience.
  • Care should be tailored to the patient — children, for example, will require palliative care designed for them, not adults.

Doctors and caregivers working in hospices should ensure that they are listening to their patients to best understand their needs. Applications like Patient Approved offer providers real time feedback and the ability to enter conversations with patients regarding their hospital experiences.