Wednesday, October 31, 2018

New National Guidelines Call for Improved Access to Vital Palliative Care

Many people living with a serious illness, whether heart failure, lung disease, cancer or another illness, don’t have access to palliative care, which can make all the difference in how they feel physically, emotionally and spiritually. The Clinical Practice Guidelines for Quality Palliative Care, 4th edition were released on October 31 and area available for free download.

New palliative care guidelines set out to improve access to this care, which provides relief from the symptoms and stress of serious illness; improves quality of life for both the patient and the patient’s family; and is provided concurrent with disease-focused treatments.

"Palliative care should be provided throughout the community wherever people living with serious illness receive care. To reach that goal, the guidelines promote consistent criteria and encourage continuity of palliative care across settings," Martha L. Twaddle, MD, FACP, FAAHPM, HMDC, Steering Committee Co-Chair, National Consensus Project for Quality Palliative Care.

To improve access to this care, the new guidelines urge clinicians and health care organizations to integrate palliative care into the services they provide all people living with serious illness, regardless of their diagnosis, prognosis, or age. The guidelines also call for palliative care to be available wherever people receive their care, including: outpatient clinics, cancer centers, long-term care facilities, office practices, homeless shelters, dialysis units and at home.

The guidelines include tools, resources and practice examples to help with implementation. They expand on the eight domains of palliative care: structure and processes of care, physical aspects of care, psychological and psychiatric aspects of care, social aspects of care, spiritual, religious and existential aspects of care, cultural aspects of care, care of the patient nearing the end of life, and ethical and legal aspects of care.

So what can you do right now to ensure your patients and their families are getting this vital care:
  • Read the guidelines and share with your colleagues.
  • Review the eight domains with your health care team and/or organization to assess how you can use the Guidelines to best address the gaps and needs of people living with serious illness and their caregivers.
  • Identify specific action steps that your organization can implement to provide quality palliative care and focus on the easily attainable goals first.
The purpose of the guidelines is to improve access to quality palliative care by fostering consistent standards and continuity of care across settings. Please join us in this national effort so that all people living with serious illness and their families will receive the best care possible. Learn more at

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