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Posts Tagged ‘costs of treatment’


Palliative Care

Writer and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD., FCAP

http://www.caregiverslibrary.org/caregivers-resources/grp-end-of-life-issues/hsgrp-hospice/hospice-vs-palliative-care-article.aspx

The differences between hospice and palliative care.

Hospice care and palliative care are very similar when it comes to the most important issue for dying people: care. Most people have heard of hospice care and have a general idea of what services hospice provides. What they don’t know or what may become confusing is that hospice provides “palliative care,” and that palliative care is both a method of administering “comfort” care and increasingly, an administered system of palliative care offered most prevalently by hospitals. As an adjunct or supplement to some of the more “traditional” care options, both hospice and palliative care protocols call for patients to receive a combined approach where medications, day-to-day care, equipment, bereavement counseling, and symptom treatment are administered through a single program. Where palliative care programs and hospice care programs differ greatly is in the care location, timing, payment, and eligibility for services.
Hospice

Hospice programs far outnumber palliative care programs. Generally, once enrolled through a referral from the primary care physician, a patient’s hospice care program, which is overseen by a team of hospice professionals, is administered in the home. Hospice often relies upon the family caregiver, as well as a visiting hospice nurse. While hospice can provide round-the-clock care in a nursing home, a specially equipped hospice facility, or, on occasion, in a hospital, this is not the norm.

Palliative Care

Palliative care teams are made up of doctors, nurses, and other professional medical caregivers, often at the facility where a patient will first receive treatment. These individuals will administer or oversee most of the ongoing comfort-care patients receive. While palliative care can be administered in the home, it is most common to receive palliative care in an institution such as a hospital, extended care facility, or nursing home that is associated with a palliative care team.

Hospice

You must generally be considered to be terminal or within six months of death to be eligible for most hospice programs or to receive hospice benefits from your insurance.

Palliative Care

There are no time restrictions. Palliative care can be received by patients at any time, at any stage of illness whether it be terminal or not.

Hospice

Before considering hospice, it is important to check on policy limits for payment. While hospice can be considered an all-inclusive treatment in terms of payment (hospice programs cover almost all expenses) insurance coverage for hospice can vary. Some hospice programs offer subsidized care for the economically disadvantaged, or for patients not covered under their own insurance. Many hospice programs are covered under Medicare.

Palliative Care

Since this service will generally be administered through your hospital or regular medical provider, it is likely that it is covered by your regular medical insurance. It is important to note, however, that each item will be billed separately, just as they are with regular hospital and doctor visits. If you receive outpatient palliative care, prescriptions will be billed separately and are only covered as provided by your regular insurance. In-patient care however, often does cover prescription charges. For more details, check with your insurance company, doctor, or hospital administration.

Hospice

Most programs concentrate on comfort rather than aggressive disease abatement. By electing to forego extensive life-prolonging treatment, hospice patients can concentrate on getting the most out of the time they have left, without some of the negative side-effects that life prolonging treatments can have. Most hospice patients can achieve a level of comfort that allows them to concentrate on the emotional and practical issues of dying.

Palliative Care

Since there are no time limits on when you can receive palliative care, it acts to fill the gap for patients who want and need comfort at any stage of any disease, whether terminal or chronic. In a palliative care program, there is no expectation that life-prolonging therapies will be avoided.

It is important to note, however, that there will be exceptions to the general precepts outlined. There are some hospice programs that will provide life-prolonging treatments, and there are some palliative care programs that concentrate mostly on end-of-life care. Consult your physician or care-administrator for the best service for you.

Reprinted from “Hospice vs. Palliative Care,” by Ann Villet-Lagomarsino. Educational Broadcasting Corporation/Public Affairs Television, Inc. Reprinted with permission.

http://www.webmd.com/palliative-care/palliative-care-mr

For the last thirty years, palliative care has been provided by hospice programs for dying Americans. Currently these programs serve more than 1 million patients and their families each year.

Now this very same approach to care is being used by other health care providers, including teams in hospitals, nursing facilities and home health agencies in combination with other medical treatments to help people who are seriously ill.

To palliate means to make comfortable by treating a person’s symptoms from an illness. Hospice and palliative care both focus on helping a person be comfortable by addressing issues causing physical or emotional pain, or suffering. Hospice and other palliative care providers have teams of people working together to provide care. The goals of palliative care are to improve the quality of a seriously ill person’s life and to support that person and their family during and after treatment.

Hospice focuses on relieving symptoms and supporting patients with a life expectancy of months not years, and their families. However, palliative care may be given at any time during a patient’s illness, from diagnosis on. Most hospices have a set of defined services, team members and rules and regulations. Some hospices provide palliative care as a separate program or service, which can be very confusing to patients and families. The list of questions below provides answers to common questions about the difference between hospice and palliative care.

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/patientinstructions/000536.htm

The goal of palliative care is to help patients with serious illnesses feel better. It prevents or treats symptoms and side effects of disease and treatment. Palliative care also treats emotional, social, practical, and spiritual problems that illnesses can bring up. When patients feel better in these areas, they have an improved quality of life.

Palliative care can be given at the same time as treatments meant to cure or treat the disease. You may get palliative care when the illness is diagnosed, throughout treatment, during follow-up, and at the end of life.

Who gives palliative care?

Any health care provider can give palliative care. But some providers specialize in it. Palliative care may be given by:

  • A team of doctors
  • Nurses
  • Registered dietitians
  • Social workers
  • Psychologists
  • Massage therapists
  • Chaplains

Palliative care may be offered by hospitals, home care agencies, cancer centers, and long term care facilities. Your doctor or hospital can give you the names of palliative care specialists near you.

A serious illness affects more than just the body. It touches all areas of a person’s life, as well as that person’s family members’ lives. Palliative care can address these effects of a person’s illness.

Physical problems. Symptoms or side effects include:

Treatments may include:

  • Medicine
  • Nutritional guidance
  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Integrative therapies

Emotional, social, and coping problems. Patients and their families face stress during illness that can lead to fear, anxiety, hopelessness, or depression. Family members may take on care giving, even if they also have jobs and other duties.

Treatments may include:

  • Counseling
  • Support groups
  • Family meetings
  • Referrals to mental health providers

Practical problems. Some of the problems brought on by illness are practical, such as money- or job-related problems, insurance questions, and legal issues. A palliative care team may:

  • Explain complex medical forms or help families understand treatment choices
  • Provide or refer families to financial counseling
  • Help connect you to resources for transportation or housing

Spiritual issues. When people are challenged by illness, they may look for meaning or question their faith. A palliative care team may help patients and families explore their beliefs and values so they can move toward acceptance and peace.

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The Incentive for “Imaging based cancer patient’ management”


Author and Curator: Dror Nir, PhD

It is generally agreed by radiologists and oncologists that in order to provide a comprehensive work-flow that complies with the principles of personalized medicine, future cancer patients’ management will heavily rely on “smart imaging” applications. These could be accompanied by highly sensitive and specific bio-markers, which are expected to be delivered by pharmaceutical companies in the upcoming decade. In the context of this post, smart imaging refers to imaging systems that are enhanced with tissue characterization and computerized image interpretation applications. It is expected that such systems will enable gathering of comprehensive clinical information on cancer tumors, such as location, size and rate of growth.

What is the main incentive for promoting cancer patients’ management based on smart imaging? 

It promises to enable personalized cancer patient management by providing the medical practitioner with a non-invasive and non-destructive tool to detect, stage and follow up cancer tumors in a standardized and reproducible manner. Furthermore, applying smart imaging that provides valuable disease-related information throughout the management pathway of cancer patient will eventually result in reducing the growing burden of health-care costs related to cancer patients’ treatment.

Let’s briefly review the segments that are common to all cancer patients’ pathway: screening, treatment and costs.

 

Screening for cancer: It is well known that one of the important factors in cancer treatment success is the specific disease staging. Often this is dependent on when the patient is diagnosed as a cancer patient. In order to detect cancer as early as possible, i.e. before any symptoms appear, leaders in cancer patients’ management came up with the idea of screening. To date, two screening programs are the most spoken of: the “officially approved and budgeted” breast cancer screening; and the unofficial, but still extremely costly, prostate cancer screening. After 20 years of practice, both are causing serious controversies:

In trend analysis of WHO mortality data base [1], the authors, Autier P, Boniol M, Gavin A and Vatten LJ, argue that breast cancer mortality in neighboring European countries with different levels of screening but similar access to treatment is the same: “The contrast between the time differences in implementation of mammography screening and the similarity in reductions in mortality between the country pairs suggest that screening did not play a direct part in the reductions in breast cancer mortality”.

In prostate cancer mortality at 11 years of follow-up [2],  the authors,Schröder FH et. al. argue regarding prostate cancer patients’ overdiagnosis and overtreatment: “To prevent one death from prostate cancer at 11 years of follow-up, 1055 men would need to be invited for screening and 37 cancers would need to be detected”.

The lobbying campaign (see picture below)  that AdmeTech (http://www.admetech.org/) is conducting in order to raise the USA administration’s awareness and get funding to improve prostate cancer treatment is a tribute to patients’ and practitioners’ frustration.

 

 

 

Treatment: Current state of the art in oncology is characterized by a shift in  the decision-making process from an evidence-based guidelines approach toward personalized medicine. Information gathered from large clinical trials with regard to individual biological cancer characteristics leads to a more comprehensive understanding of cancer.

Quoting from the National cancer institute (http://www.cancer.gov/) website: “Advances accrued over the past decade of cancer research have fundamentally changed the conversations that Americans can have about cancer. Although many still think of a single disease affecting different parts of the body, research tells us through new tools and technologies, massive computing power, and new insights from other fields that cancer is, in fact, a collection of many diseases whose ultimate number, causes, and treatment represent a challenging biomedical puzzle. Yet cancer’s complexity also provides a range of opportunities to confront its many incarnations”.

Personalized medicine, whether it uses cytostatics, hormones, growth inhibitors, monoclonal antibodies, and loco-regional medical devices, proves more efficient, less toxic, less expensive, and creates new opportunities for cancer patients and health care providers, including the medical industry.

To date, at least 50 types of systemic oncological treatments can be offered with much more quality and efficiency through patient selection and treatment outcome prediction.

Figure taken from presentation given by Prof. Jaak Janssens at the INTERVENTIONAL ONCOLOGY SOCIETY meeting held in Brussels in October 2011

For oncologists, recent technological developments in medical imaging-guided tissue acquisition technology (biopsy) create opportunities to provide representative fresh biological materials in a large enough quantity for all kinds of diagnostic tests.

 

Health-care economics: We are living in an era where life expectancy is increasing while national treasuries are over their limits in supporting health care costs. In the USA, of the nation’s 10 most expensive medical conditions, cancer has the highest cost per person. The total cost of treating cancer in the U.S. rose from about $95.5 billion in 2000 to $124.6 billion in 2010, the National Cancer Institute (www.camcer.gov) estimates. The true sum is probably higher as this estimate is based on average costs from 2001-2006, before many expensive treatments came out; quoting from www.usatoday.com : “new drugs often cost $100,000 or more a year. Patients are being put on them sooner in the course of their illness and for a longer time, sometimes for the rest of their lives.”

With such high costs at stake, solutions to reduce the overall cost of cancer patients’ management should be considered. My experience is that introducing smart imaging applications into routine use could contribute to significant savings in the overall cost of cancer patients’ management, by enabling personalized treatment choice and timely monitoring of tumors’ response to treatment.

 

 References

  1. 1.      BMJ. 2011 Jul 28;343:d4411. doi: 10.1136/bmj.d4411
  2. 2.      (N Engl J Med. 2012 Mar 15;366(11):981-90):

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