|Diane Meier is the director of the Center to Advance Palliative Care, a national organization that aims to increase the number of palliative care programs in hospitals and elsewhere for patients with serious illnesses. Meier is also a professor of geriatrics and palliative medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. We spoke about a recently launched pilot program under the health law that allows hospice patients participating in the pilot to continue to receive life-prolonging treatment. This is an edited version of that conversation.|
Q. There’s a lot of confusion about how hospice care differs from palliative care. Maybe we should start by clearing up what those terms mean.
A. The short, quick elevator answer is that all hospice care is palliative care -- but not all palliative care is hospice. Palliative care is a team-based type of care focused on maximizing the quality of life for people and their caregivers at any stage of illness. It focuses on treating the pain, stresses and symptoms of serious illness. The emphasis is on need, not prognosis or how long you might have to live.
In contrast, the hospice benefit, which was written into the Medicare statutes about 25 years ago, had a number of limits in it to control spending.
Diane Meier (Photo courtesy of Mount Sinai Hospital)