Monday, December 5, 2011

New Name = More Palliative Care?

Studies have shown that palliative care can improve a patient’s quality of life, and sometimes even extend that life. But palliative care tends not to come up in the doctor-patient conversation until rather late in the process. So, if it can do some good, how can palliative care be brought into the conversation earlier?

How about changing the name?

The Oncologist has published a study from the Department of Palliative Care and Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center showing that referrals came earlier and more frequently when palliative care was known instead as supportive care.

But is “supportive care” a clear enough term? Might “comfort care” be even better? Or is the meaning of “palliative care,” which covers a broad spectrum of pain management, so well known within medical practice that changing the name would cause confusion and do more harm than good?

Maybe palliative care, like hospice care, just needs to be better understood.

For more on the Anderson study, see:


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