A new palliative care program designed to enhance quality of life for patients suffering from serious, chronic or terminal conditions has been launched at Emory University Hospital and Emory Crawford Long Hospital.
According to Mark Williams, MD, professor of medicine in the Emory University School of Medicine and director of the Hospital Medicine Unit, palliative care focuses on the many ways serious illness affects patients and their families. The goal of the program is to help patients by relieving both the physical and non-physical suffering that accompanies serious illnesses. Palliative care programs also address mental health and spiritual needs.
"Providing palliative care is essentially healing at a higher level," Dr. Williams said. "By integrating multidisciplinary care to augment clinical services, we can better help our patients and their families at a vulnerable point in their lives."
The palliative care teams work closely with primary physicians to control pain, relieve symptoms of illnesses - such as nausea, fatigue and depression; help provide counseling in making difficult medical decisions; provide emotional and spiritual support; coordinate home care referrals and assist with identifying future care needs.
"This program is staffed by internal medicine physicians (hospitalists) and co-directed by two hospitalists who are specifically board-certified in palliative care, making Emory the first health system in Atlanta with a physician-led palliative care program," said Dr. Williams. "Hospital-based palliative care is a rapidly growing trend in healthcare, and we are perfectly situated to provide services to a wide variety of patient groups." Drs. Melissa Mahoney and Stephanie Grossman work collaboratively with Donna Arena, RN, PhD making up the core palliative care consult team at Emory.
Not to be confused with hospice care, palliative care is appropriate and used for patients in any stage of illness, whereas hospice care is primarily used for those approaching the end stage of life. A typical palliative care "team" consists of physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains and pharmacists, assisting patients through a wide array of illnesses, including stroke, heart disease, cancer and HIV.