EOL Press Release

NCHC Writer
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The quality of care provided to dying patients can be dramatically improved, as illustrated by the nine institutions and organizations profiled in a new report, Promises to Keep: Changing the Way We Provide Care at the End of Life, released today by the National Coalition on Health Care and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

Of the 2.4 million people in the United States who die each year, many suffer pain and other distress that could be prevented or relieved with existing knowledge, programs and therapies. Almost 50% of conscious, hospitalized patients have serious pain in the days before death. About one-third of people live at least part of their final year in nursing homes, but only about one-third of nursing home residents with serious pain receive any relief from their pain.

The report provides examples of what has been done in our health care system — and which should be replicated throughout the country — to avoid the pain, fear and confusion that too often faces patients and their families at the end of life,” according to Henry E. Simmons, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.P., president of the National Coalition on Health Care. “The programs profiled have focused on better pain management, continuity of care, serving the needs of families, and assisting in the grieving process — all of which are part of the quality of care at the end of life that all Americans should receive,” he added.

We see the dramatic results that innovative programs in end-of-life care can achieve for patients and their families,” said Donald M. Berwick, M.D., M.P.P., president and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.. “The challenge, now, is to ensure that similar programs are available to all dying patients,” he added.

The team selecting the programs to be profiled in this report was headed by Joanne Lynn, M.D., president of the Americans for Better Care of the Dying and director of RAND’s Center to Improve Care of the Dying.

The innovative programs highlighted in the report:

  • Franciscan Health System, Tacoma, Washington, has developed a program to identify very sick patients and get them timely referrals for supportive services.
  • Southern Arizona Veterans Health Care System, Tucson, Arizona, has underway a set of projects to aid patients suffering from anxiety and troubled breathing.
  • The Caring Place, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is a program in which grieving children and families find comfort.
  • Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center and Franciscan Skemp Health Care, La Crosse, Wisconsin, lead a community-wide outreach program for advance care planning.
  • Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Medical Center, Los Angeles County, California, has instituted a self-care program for congestive heart and lung failure patients.
  • The Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York, has a palliative care consulting service in a university medical center that educates doctors and medical students.
  • The Hospice of the Florida Suncoast, Pinellas County, Florida, is one of the country’s oldest hospice programs providing support to patients, families, and the community.
  • The Balm of Gilead Project, Birmingham, Alabama, shows how a public hospital can offer creative and exemplary services to the poor.
  • Calvary Hospital, Bronx, New York, sets the gold standard for caring for patients in the final stages of cancer.

Copies of the report are available by calling Sara View at (202) 638-7151 or email at [email protected]. The report will be on the National Coalition Web site at www.nchc.org by the end of October.

The National Coalition is the nation’s largest, most broadly representative alliance working to improve America’s health care system. Its members include large and small businesses, unions, consumer, provider and religious groups. Its Honorary Co-Chairs are former Presidents George Bush, Jimmy Carter and Gerald R. Ford. Former Governor Robert D. Ray (R-IA) and Former Congressman Paul G. Rogers (D-FL) serve as Co-Chairs of the Coalition.

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) is an integrative force for change in the health care industry. A non-profit organization, IHI improves health care by harvesting innovative ideas, turning knowledge into practice, and connecting people and organizations to accomplish more together than they can separately.