by Lindsay Abrams
January 7, 2013
You know how if someone e-mails you over and over, and doesn’t stop until you finally respond or just go ahead and do what they’ve been asking you to, it’s really annoying, but also a pretty good strategy on their part because they ended up getting what they wanted?
The same thing, it turns out, works with doctors. Only in this case what they’re being nagged about is having an important conversation with terminally ill patients that, let’s be honest, they shouldn’t have been avoiding or forgetting in the first place.
The number of patients with incurable cancer whose charts indicate whether or not they want to be resuscitated can be doubled, a new study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found, provided doctors are sent e-mails reminding them to ask.
Per national guidelines, this conversation is supposed to occur when a patient’s prognosis is less than a year. More
by Kate Harrison and Todd South
Times Free Press
December 16, 2012
Details of an ongoing federal investigation into Life Care Centers of America reveal claims that elderly patients undergoing end-of-life care at several company facilities were pushed to high levels of unnecessary therapies so the company could bill maximum Medicare amounts for profit.
The examples in the federal complaint show a more personal side to the allegations of corporate-encouraged fraud that prosecutors have leveled against the Cleveland, Tenn.-based company.
One segment details the case of “Patient D,” a 92-year-old resident at a Life Care facility in Orlando, Fla., who was dying of melanoma in 2007. Though the cancer had spread to Patient D’s brain and lungs and radiation treatments had made him “medically fragile,” he still was administered two hours of therapy every day.
Two days before Patient D died, he was spitting out blood. Yet therapists recorded 48 minutes of physical therapy, 47 minutes of occupational therapy and 30 minutes of speech therapy in one day.
“The day Patient D died, Life Care therapists recorded 35 minutes of physical therapy and had him scheduled for occupational therapy later in the day,” court records state. More
by Andrew M. Seaman
December 12, 2012
Dying cancer patients are less likely to want aggressive end-of-life care if they watch a short video about cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) than if they simply hear about it, according to a new study.
“These are huge differences. You will die very differently if you watch the video than if you don’t,” said Dr. Angelo Volandes, the study’s lead author from Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital.
All 150 cancer patients in the randomized study were thought to have less than a year to live. Of the 80 who were simply told about CPR, 48% said they wanted it, compared to 20% of the 70 patients who also watched a video showing compressions on a dummy and insertion of the endotracheal tube.
“It’s one of the most important issues in American medicine today. People are getting medical interventions that, if they had more knowledge, they would simply not want,” said Dr. Volandes. More
by Dr. Andrew Ordon
The Desert Sun
December 5, 2012
As doctors, we are taught that death is the enemy. We are here to stop it and if a patient dies, we have failed. That mentality has led to an alarming statistic. According to one study, 60 percent of your health care dollar is spent in the last 30 days of life. Wouldn’t those resources be better spent on prevention and defeating curable diseases earlier in life? Why do we try so hard at the very end? One reason is that we think we can defeat the disease and gift the patient with more time. But there are times when that is not a reality.
One obvious example is the terminally ill. People with Stage 4 cancer. That means they have a cancer which has spread from the local area to a distant location. Cancer starts out in one place, and if it is isolated there, it’s called Stage I. If it erupts from its local area but has not spread to lymph nodes it is Stage 2. If it has spread to nodes but has not spread beyond the region of origin, it is Stage 3. If it has traveled by lymph or through the blood stream to a distant organ, that’s Stage 4, which is as bad as it gets. This is when doctors tell you how long they think you have left.
In a study published in November in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, 1,231 patients with Stage 4 lung cancer were evaluated for their End of Life (EOL) experiences. They considered “aggressive” care to be things such as receiving chemotherapy in the last 14 days of life, ICU stays in the final 30 days and an acute-care hospital stay in their last 30 days.
Researchers found that patients who had EOL discussions before the final 30 days were more likely to receive appropriate hospice care than those who did not have EOL discussions. More
by Paula Span
The New York Times
December 3, 2012
I wrote last week about the poor choices facing patients, most very old and within six months of death, who need nursing home care after a hospitalization.
Medicare will pay for hospice, the acknowledged gold standard for those at the end of life and their families, and it will also pay for skilled nursing (known in this universe as the “sniff” benefit, for Skilled Nursing Facility or S.N.F.). But only rarely will it cover both at the same time, which creates a financial bind.
Rather than pay hundreds of dollars a day out of pocket for room and board in a nursing home, most families opt for S.N.F. coverage. But they pay a price in other ways: they lose the visits by nurses and aides and social workers, the comfort care, the pain relief and the spiritual support that can make hospice such a godsend, whether patients are at home or in nursing homes. More