I often say that I’m helping to build the type of health care experience that I want. We are all going to touch this system in some way – whether giving birth, treating an illness, or getting vaccines to keep us healthy. I don’t think other industries get to be as personal and as important as health care. I don’t think the stakes are as high. What we do matters, this future state matters, and palliative care is one of the areas where there is so much potential but not enough people have access.

When we have serious or advanced illness we often have increases in symptoms that cannot be met by traditional curative or life-prolonging care. People may have increases in pain, decreases in function, and are often frustrated by moving between care settings and care teams that do not talk to one another. Palliative care works to fill this gap between intensive curative care and supportive care to better meet patient need.

We have been developing recommendations for palliative care since January and are using the National Consensus Project for Quality Palliative Care definition, “Palliative care focuses on expert assessment and management of [symptoms including] pain…assessment and support of caregiver needs, and coordination of care [attending] to the physical, functional, psychological, practical, and spiritual consequences of a serious illness. It is a person- and family-centered approach to care, providing people living with serious illness relief from the symptoms and stress of an illness.

One of the great programs happening in our state is the Rural Palliative Care Initiative that “helps Washington rural communities develop skills and services to serve people with serious illnesses and their loved ones, in the community at any stage of illness.” We are learning what we can from this work and from many programs serving Washington.

Increasing awareness and understanding about palliative care is one of our goals – especially understanding the difference between primary palliative care, care delivered within primary care that meets patient need, and specialty palliative care, the services people with serious illness should receive when their needs cannot be met within primary care. We also want to make sure that everyone is receiving high-quality palliative care and are again looking to the National Consensus Project for their standards.

Palliative care also needs to be financially sustainable. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid recently released information on new reimbursement models for primary care that will include care for those who are seriously ill, but Washington State is not one of the demonstration areas. This means the work that we do with the Bree Collaborative is even more important.

Join our next meeting on June 14th from 10:00 – 11:30am.