Doylestown Health is offering patients with chronic illness a palliative care program to meet their needs and improve quality of life.
“One major misunderstanding is that palliative care is just a bridge to hospice. It’s really more of a comprehensive approach to care for patients who have serious and symptomatic medical conditions,” noted Mary Beth Mitchell, senior executive director of Doylestown Health’s Care Transformation Strategies. “Palliative care helps people with multiple symptoms really optimize their health, so they can live their best life with a chronic condition.”
Palliative care is a medical subspecialty for people living with a serious illness that focuses on the management of pain and other symptoms, support for the caregiver and coordination of care. The focus on relieving the symptoms and stress of any serious illness includes patients of any age and any stage of disease.
While both palliative care and hospice focus on improving the quality of life for a patient with a life-limiting illness, there are differences. Patients can continue all of their treatment plans, medications, or doctors’ appointments in order to obtain palliative care services. Palliative care specialists work with the patient and their family to improve symptom control, maximize function and maintain quality of life
Some patient diagnoses that might benefit from palliative care services include those with cancer, heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), dementia, Parkinson’s disease as well as many others. Palliative care staff works alongside traditional practices — like primary care doctors, oncologists, cardiologists, pulmonologists, etc., as a team.
To help these patients, Doylestown Health started its new palliative care program in September. The outpatient practice works like any medical specialist practice and many health insurance plans will cover the services. Located on the third floor of the Doylestown Health Urgent Care building on Swamp Road, the clinic is staffed with a medical director, Dr. Anna Thomas; a nurse practitioner, a nurse and a social worker.
Most patients will be seen at the office and those who are unable to leave their home due to the severity of their condition will be seen in their homes. Wherever they are seen, a patient’s functional status and symptoms will be assessed to determine a plan to manage their symptoms, which may include pain, shortness of breath or depression or other life-limiting symptoms. Depending on a patient’s particular situation and symptoms, the team will follow up on a regular basis by having the patient come in, or they will conduct a home visit or call patients to check in.