pennsylvania must do a much better job of caring for people with chronic illnesses in the last stages of life, according to a new state report.
the report, to be released today, urges more support to family caregivers, better education and higher standards for health professionals in end-of-life care. it also called for restructuring how health care is paid and provided to allow more attention on keeping people comfortable at the end of life and not just trying to cure them.
the current method of financing end-of-life care simply "fails to direct resources where they are needed," the report said.
overall, the report - produced by the task force for quality at the end of life empaneled by the governor in 2005 - noted that the process of growing old and dying has changed in america, and the health-care system has not changed with it. as a result, too many people are suffering, and it is the responsibility of the public, health-care professionals, and elected officials to push for improvements.
"providing quality end-of-life experiences for all pennsylvanians is a challenge of increasing urgency, and one that must be tackled by all of us," concluded the report, called "improving end of life experiences for pennsylvanians" and chaired by secretary of aging nora dowd eisenhower....
...the report also called for "a continuity of care and respect for patient preferences across care settings." too often when people are transported from home to a nursing home, or from a nursing home to a hospital, their stated wishes are lost or left behind or ignored. the report suggested one remedy as a statewide adoption of a system of binding medical orders that was created in oregon and now being used in 13 states, including parts of western pennsylvania.
the system is known as polst, which stands for physician orders for life sustaining treatment (www.polst.org
"the centerpiece of polst is a document, a brightly colored medical order form, that converts patient treatment preferences into written medical orders based on conversations between patient and physicians," the report noted. the form goes everywhere with a chronically ill person and should prevent paramedics, for instance, from reviving someone against his or her wishes. it is a binding doctor's order....