“If palliative care were a pill, it would be prescribed to every patient with serious illness in the country.”
– Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times
Palliative care is more than just care delivered in a hospice or used at the end-of-life to relieve pain and symptoms before death. Palliative care should be offered alongside “curative” treatment for several chronic and life-threatening illnesses.
The Business Group suggests employers use the term supportive care instead of palliative care in their benefits communication strategy. This term better describes the breadth of such services without the confusion or stigma of “palliation.” More than ever, health systems and payers are embracing innovative approaches to expand and reimagine this type of care. This is no surprise given that several studies show these vital services extend life, improve quality of life, and reduce unnecessary use of high cost intensive care, but are widely under-utilized. Employers and their employees stand to benefit greatly from rebranding and expanding this type of care.
At its most basic, supportive care is meant to alleviate symptoms and reduce suffering for a patient. Supportive care can be provided alongside curative care, which seeks to eliminate the underlying cause of the symptoms. Supportive care should be provided at time of diagnosis for several illnesses. An important goal of changing the terminology to supportive care is to emphasize that these services can help patients “live well,” rather than just alleviating their symptoms.
Employers should consider several steps to expand access to and promote supportive care for appropriate employees, dependents, and caregivers.
For more detail and ideas, see the Business Group’s More Than a Name Change: Reframing Palliative Care to Supportive Care publication.