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Anthony Cirillo

Palliative Care Can Reduce ED Visits, Prevent Readmissions

By February 4, 2013

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A recent study shows that palliative care reduces the number of visits seniors in long-term care settings make to emergency rooms.

The 250 seniors studied by Hebrew Rehabilitation Center and the Institute for Aging Research also were less depressed, researchers noted. All of the study subjects lived at the rehabilitation center; half received palliative care services over two years. Residents who experienced palliative care showed a significant reduction in emergency room (ER) visits (p < .001) and depression (p = .031). Change in the composite score indicated a significant difference over time between the 2 groups (p = .013).

"This study showed a decrease in emergency room visits for palliative care patients, avoiding an often frightening event for patients and families, while decreasing the high cost of this expensive service for our healthcare system," said lead author Jody Comart, Ph.D., the palliative care director at Hebrew SeniorLife.

Although limited to one facility and drawn from a quasi-experimental design, the results demonstrate the potential for improved quality of care with palliative care consults. The palliative care team was effective in reducing ER visits and depression and promoted more appropriate care resulting in more favorable clinical outcomes toward the resident's end of life.

Palliative Care is a misunderstood service most often associated with death and dying. In reality, palliative can give people a longer quality of life during any stage of life. There is a nuance there that most people do not appreciate.

Palliative care is specialized medical care for those with serious illnesses. It is focused on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, and stress of a serious illness. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family.

Palliative care is provided by a team. This includes doctors, nurses, and other specialists. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness.

Patients who may benefit include: tose with serious and chronic illnesses such as cancer, cardiac disease, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), kidney failure, Alzheimer's, HIV/AIDS, ALS.

With the increased emphasis on readmissions, accountable care, and transitions of care, palliative care in turn can be something integrated in the care plan that provides both quality of life to the patient/resident and makes the provider a sought-after partner by ACO partners.

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