Tidelands Health expands care for patients with serious, life-threatening illnesses
Tidelands Health is expanding the reach of a program that provides comfort and support to seriously ill patients and their families.
The health system this month launched a community-based palliative care program. The goal is to help improve the quality of life among patients with chronic and life-threatening illnesses. Members of the health system’s palliative care team help explain the patient’s medical condition, coordinate care, assist with making medical decisions and address other needs.
The change is a natural outgrowth of the health system’s commitment to improving the overall health and wellness of the community, said Monica Grey, associate vice president of transitional services. Tidelands Health previously followed a more traditional approach that focused on providing palliative care to patients while they were in the hospital.
“If we are going to have an impact on the health of our region, we must look beyond the walls of our hospitals and care providers,” Grey said. “Community-based palliative care broadens our ability to help patients facing serious illnesses cope with their diagnoses and get the care they need.”
Unlike hospice care, which focuses on providing comfort to patients no longer seeking curative treatment, palliative care can begin at any stage after a patient has been diagnosed with a life-threatening or chronic illness such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, kidney disease, heart failure, HIV/AIDS and others, Grey said.
Palliative care can help coordinate care meant to help relieve pain and other symptoms. It can also connect patients with resources to help with emotional distress and offer families support working through financial pressures, legal problems, employment concerns, transportation and housing challenges.
Only about 58 percent of South Carolina hospitals with 50 or more beds offer any type of palliative care program, according to the Center to Advance Palliative Care, a national organization that provides tools and training for health care organizations building palliative care services.
Among health systems that offer palliative care, Tidelands Health is part of a rapidly growing trend to provide it in a community-based setting, said Dr. Diane E. Meier, the center’s director.
"There is widespread recognition of the broad benefits of palliative care,” Dr. Meier said. “By providing expert pain and symptom management and skilled communication with patients and families, palliative care takes people off the treadmill of emergency room visits, hospital admissions and unnecessary procedures.”
The expanded Tidelands Health program will be led by two coordinators working within the Tidelands Community Care Network, Grey said. The coordinators will work with doctors and other members of the Tidelands Health team to support participating patients and their families.