Ministry Saint Clare’s Launches Palliative Care Pilot Program

Ministry Saint Clare’s Hospital is ringing in the New Year with the launch of a new palliative care service.

Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses. It is focused on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, and the stress of a serious illness—whatever the diagnosis. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family.

“Palliative care is provided by a team of doctors, nurses, and other specialists who work together with a patient's other doctors to provide an extra layer of support,” said Ellen Schumann, M.D., MS, FAAP, chief medical information officer at Ministry Saint Clare’s.  “It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness and can be provided along with curative treatment.”

Dr. Schumann adds that this new effort will launch as a pilot program focused on patients with congestive heart failure (CHF) or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). 

Within the Ministry system, Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital, Marshfield and St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Appleton will continue to offer a complete multidisciplinary program for Palliative Care. Recruitment efforts are underway for a medical director and administrator to provide oversight of this system with plans to grow and expand more defined palliative care models to other Ministry locations. 

An increasing number of individuals live with serious, chronic illness.  Almost 1 in 2 people in the United States have a chronic disease and 1 in 5 people have multiple chronic diseases.  More than 90 percent of people will die of a chronic disease.   We spend eight out of every ten dollars on chronic disease, the majority of which is spent in the last six months of life. In those final months, 1 in 3 chronically ill patients is treated by 10 or more physicians.  We can do better.

“Once a diagnosis of a life-threatening condition or a debilitating illness or injury is made, palliative care begins to offer support to the family and patient while disease-modifying treatment is continued,” said Dr. Schumann. “As the burden of disease waxes and wanes, so does the involvement of palliative care.”

At Ministry Saint Clare’s, palliative care will not be a place, but a philosophy of care supported by a special team.  Palliative care will be a consult service requiring a physician order, although any clinical staff member can identify patients. 

The initial consultation team in Weston includes Anil Thogarucheeti, M.D., medical director of the hospitalist program; Mark Moser, director of case management and the patient’s primary nurse.  Spiritual services will be provided by Chaplains Marion Talaga and Duane Hamilton. Ministry Home Care will also be an integral team member of the Palliative Care program.  Patients with CHF or COPD who meet 2 of the following 3 criteria are appropriate for referral: the illness will result in the end of life within the next 12 months; this is the 3rd admission for the same illness within a 6 month period, or a second admission for the same illness in a home care patient.

Dr. Schumann adds that conclusions from any initial palliative care consultation can be easily entered into the patients electronic health record and recommendations shared quickly with the patient, family, nursing staff, and the primary medical home. If the patient chooses to enroll in the palliative care program, a case manager will meet with the patients and families to review the plan of care and facilitate the necessary referrals for services, equipment, and ongoing care. 

“We are excited to introduce this service at Ministry Saint Clare’s,” said Schumann. “The long-term plan is for the pilot to grow and evolve into a complete palliative care program, with dedicated and specialized staff and services.”

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