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Helping Cancer Patients Express Preferences for End-of-Life Care
Virginia Mason launches a new computer-based advanced care pilot program with Cambia Health Foundation grant.
SEATTLE – (July 30, 2012) — Although Washington is frequently recognized as a leader in palliative and end-of-life care, many doctors and patients still avoid having conversations about care options at the end of life. Often, this happens with the very best of motives: concern for the patient. Doctors want to keep up patient morale; patients and families want to focus on the positive; but all of them — when asked directly — place a high value on honesty and choice when dealing with end-of-life issues.
To help ensure patients have the opportunity to make their wishes for treatment and care at the end of life known, Virginia Mason Medical Center is launching a new computer-based advanced care planning pilot program for cancer patients. The program is funded by a $41,000 grant from Cambia Health Foundation (formerly The Regence Foundation).
Patients receiving chemotherapy at the pilot site, Virginia Mason’s outpatient infusion center, will answer a series of questions about their care preferences, health goals, and important health care decisions — now and at the end of life. Patients can answer the questions on their own or with help from a nurse from the infusion center. The answers the patients provide will become part of their medical record and help guide conversations between patients and their health care team.
“We view this new pilot program as a stepping stone,” said Peggy Maguire, Cambia Health Foundation board chair. “It’s a great way to start an ongoing conversation that allows patients to voice their curative and palliative care preferences, raise questions, and start thinking about their end-of-life wishes. The next step is working to ensure physicians have the time and comfort level to have personal conversations with their patients, so that the patient’s wishes are not only expressed but respected.”
The program will become an integral part of Virginia Mason’s palliative care efforts. Palliative care is a medical specialty focused on reducing the pain and suffering associated with serious and life-limiting diseases. Goals of palliative care include addressing both the physical and emotional symptoms of illness, providing support to patients and their families, and respecting patients’ wishes for care at the end of life. Palliative care can also be provided in conjunction with curative treatment.
“Too many patients with life-limiting diseases such as advanced cancer never have an opportunity to share their thoughts about their life or their feelings about death in a way that is available to all their providers throughout the continuum of the care,” said David A. Kregenow, MD, a palliative care physician at Virginia Mason. “This pilot program is an attempt to open the doors for patients and providers to have and record these conversations so we can ensure that we meet the palliative care needs of every patient, every time.”
A recent series of national polls sponsored by the Cambia Health Foundation found that 78 percent of Americans want more public dialogue about palliative and end-of-life care. Nearly everyone surveyed — 97 percent of respondents — believes educating patients and their families about these issues is important.
The Cambia Health Foundation was previously The Regence Foundation. It recently changed its name to more accurately reflect the name of its parent company, Cambia Health Solutions, Inc.
About Cambia Health Foundation
Cambia Health Foundation is the corporate foundation of Cambia Health Solutions, a total health solutions company dedicated to transforming the way people experience the health care system. A 501(c)3 grantmaking organization, the foundation partners with organizations to create a more person-focused and economically sustainable health care system. Through its Sojourns program, the foundation also works to enhance quality, improve access, advance innovation and facilitate conversations about palliative care and end-of-life issues. For more information, visit http://cambiahealthfoundation.org/ or www.twitter.com/cambiahealthfdn.
About Virginia Mason Medical Center
Virginia Mason Medical Center, founded in 1920, is a nonprofit regional health care system in Seattle that serves the Pacific Northwest. Virginia Mason employs more than 5,300 people and includes a 336-bed acute-care hospital; a primary and specialty care group practice of more than 450 physicians; satellite locations throughout the Puget Sound area; and Bailey-Boushay House, the first skilled-nursing and outpatient chronic care management program in the U.S. designed and built specifically to meet the needs of people with HIV/AIDS. Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason is internationally recognized for its breakthrough autoimmune disease research. Virginia Mason was the first health system to apply lean manufacturing principles to health care delivery to eliminate waste and improve quality and patient safety.
Awards and distinctions include Top Hospital of the Decade by The Leapfrog Group, 2012 Top Hospital (for the sixth consecutive year) by The Leapfrog Group, 2012 Distinguished Hospital for Clinical Excellence from HealthGrades®, and 2012 America’s 100 Best Specialty Excellence Award for Overall Cardiac and Gastrointestinal Care from HealthGrades.
To learn more about Virginia Mason Medical Center, please visit Facebook.com/VMcares or follow @VirginiaMason on Twitter.