I am a huge fan of efforts to increase awareness of palliative care among physicians, health systems, patients and their families. And I wanted to pass on information about three major efforts to do that.
The first is a landmark study by the prestigious Institute of Medicine on the importance of managing pain. The report, Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education and Research, calls for a fundamental change in the way pain is viewed and treated. It finds that 116 million Americans deal with chronic pain. It calls for major changes in the way pain is assessed and treated, and for a broad new strategy for preventing, treating, and managing pain.
The report also describes the major barriers to good pain management in the current health system. Among its specific recommendations: Creation of a pain institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
IOM studies get relatively little public attention but are extremely influential in the health care community. I expect that Relieving Pain in America will be an important step in the nation’s effort to improve the way it treats pain.
While pain is a widespread issue, it can be especially challenging for patients with advanced disease. And a new project, the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care aims to improve the quality of care for that population. The group was created by Bill Novelli, the former CEO at AARP and founder of marketing firm Porter-Novelli. Novelli describes the aim of this care model this way: “New clinical models of care for advanced illness provide patients and their families with a customized mix of the treatments they need and the comfort measures they want. When we provide a new kind of care that anticipates problems, avoids crises, and prevents hospitalization, everybody benefits.”
The coalition has been around for about a year, but has operated largely under the radar. But keep an eye on its important work.
Finally, Dr. Joanne Lynn, one of the most influential voices in end-of-life care, has just published a revised version of Handbook for Mortals: Guidance for People Facing Serious Illness. The book, orginally published in 1999, provides practical advice to patients facing terminal illnesses and their caregivers. Among its topics: pain and symptom management, and advance care planning. Joanne is currently the director of the Altarum Institute’s Center for Elder Care and Advanced Illness. Joanne’s coauthor is Dr. Joan Harrold, medical director of the Hospice of Lancaster.
The good news is that pain and symptom management, for both the dying and the chronically ill, is getting increased attention. With this higher profile, I hope that patients and their families will increasing demand this care, and that health and long-term care providers will be better skilled at delivering it.