How To Achieve Compassionate End-Of-Life Care

Paul Levy

First published 3/14/11 on [Not] Running A Hospital

very special report is being released right now at the Boston Public Library from the Expert Panel on End-of-Life Care, a multidisciplinary group of 41 stakeholders, including health care professionals, service providers, policy makers, health care advocates and legislators. They were appointed by the state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services, as directed by the Legislature.

The have done very good work on an important topic. It is thoughtful, practical, and compassionate.

Here are some excerpts from the press release:

Included in the report are the Expert Panel’s professional training guidelines to assist physicians with end-of-life consultations with patients who wish to discuss advanced directives.

The panel identified several essential goals toward achieving the highest quality end-of-life care:

– Inform and empower residents of Massachusetts to understand and plan for end-of-life care;
– Support a health care system that ensures high-quality patient-centered care;
– Promote and support a knowledgeable, competent, and compassionate healthcare workforce;
– Employ quality indicators and performance management tools to measure results.

I really like all these, especially the last one. Like all process improvements, if you don’t measure, you don’t achieve. I also like that the report talks about guidelines, clearly being sensitive to the preogatives of doctors and nurses in their relationships with patients.

Notable quotes from two fine people:

“Any health care system should help doctors and other caregivers ensure that patient’s wishes are understood and honored, perhaps most of all in the last phases of life,” said Dr. Lachlan Forrow, Director of Ethics Programs at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

“Meeting with residents throughout the state, it is clear to me they want to talk about ‘a good death,’ and how will we respect and honor their wishes at the end of life,” said Jim Conway, Senior Fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. “Implementing systematically the report’s recommendations will go a long way to ensure we, as a community, do that in partnership 100% of the time.”

Paul Levy is the former CEO of a large Boston health system. He writes at [Not] Running A Hospital

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