Inaugural conference addresses national health priority: Upstreaming advance care planning

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Dr. Ira Byock delivered the keynote address.

Upstreaming advance care planning and palliative care have become a national healthcare priority, incorporated into CMS’s (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) reimbursement policies and guidelines from national organizations including the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

End-of-life care experts from around the country planned and presented at the College’s Inaugural Esther Schwartz Conference Advance Care Planning Reimagined: Clinical Excellence and Cultural Leadership in Oncology held April 1-2. This interdisciplinary event was created to assist in the development of effective communication skills between oncology nurses, physicians, healthcare providers, social workers, clergy, patients and families in order to promote improved advance care planning. Nurses, clergy, social workers and physicians from a variety of settings shared their expertise on all aspects of advance care planning as well as their experiences with incorporating advance care planning into their own organizational practices.

“Patient and family centered care is a hallmark of quality care in oncology. Advance care planning ensures that patient and family values are assessed and incorporated into the plan of care,” explains Meredith A MacKenzie, PhD, RN, CRNP, CNE, assistant professor, and a content expert on the planning committee, “Advance care planning recognizes the patient and family as full and valued members of the team.”

Other experts agree. In the Institute of Medicine’s 2015 consensus report Dying in America: Improving Quality and Honoring Individual Preferences Near the End of Life, a committee of experts finds that improving the quality and availability of medical and social services for patients and their families could not only enhance quality of life through the end of life, but may also contribute to a more sustainable care system. It is a timely topic. The IOM cites several factors, among them “the rapidly increasing number of older Americans with some combination of frailty, physical and cognitive disabilities, chronic illness, and functional limi­tations. The U.S. population also is quickly becoming more culturally diverse, heightening the need for responsive, patient-centered care.”

Keynote speaker Ira Byock, MD, a nationally recognized, leading palliative care physician, author, and public advocate for improving care through the end of life, agreed. He is executive director and chief medical officer for the Institute for Human Caring of Providence Health and Services, a professor of Medicine and Community and Family Medicine at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and previously served as director of Palliative Medicine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire. His most recent publication The Best Care Possible, showcased at a book signing, tackles the crisis that surrounds serious illness and dying in America and his quest to transform care through the end of life.