Danbury Hospital Launches Outpatient Palliative Care Support for Chronic Pulmonary Diseases

Western Connecticut Health Network
WCHN

Danbury Connecticut – June 2, 2016 - Danbury Hospital announced the expansion of its leading-edge palliative care program to outpatients with pulmonary diseases. Available at the Western Connecticut Medical Group Pulmonary and Sleep Disorders office in Danbury, the service is breaking new ground by making palliative care available early in the process of treating these chronically-ill patients before they require hospitalization.

The Hospital is the only one in Connecticut to have received Advanced Certification for Palliative Care from the state’s independent, non-profit Joint Commission. Not to be confused with end-of-life hospice care, palliative care helps individuals and families deal with serious illness by treating physical and emotional symptoms and reducing suffering at different stages of the disease. Palliative care teams are trained and skilled at advanced care planning, eliciting patients’ personal goals to help guide the treatment strategy.

“In America’s health care system, all too often patients aren’t asked what is important to them, especially when a cure is not an option. We ask patients to articulate their goals and values so that our medical team can put in place a treatment plan based on their wishes,” said Dr. Damanjeet Chaubey, medical director of the palliative care service and chief of hospital medicine at Danbury Hospital. “By expanding our program to pulmonary outpatients, we are able to engage with patients at an early stage – in the physician’s office rather than at the time of hospitalization. This helps to ensure their preferences will be clear if they reach the point where they are unable to make decisions for themselves.”

“Our goal is to help more patients address their physical, emotional and psychological needs from the time of diagnosis until their illnesses reach a final stage,” according to Karen Mulvihill, DNP, APRN, FNP, ACHPN, director of palliative care services at Danbury Hospital.

“Palliative care can and should be included early. Often done in consultation with families and caretakers, this is part of Danbury Hospital’s commitment to patient-centric care.”

The new pulmonary outpatient offering builds on the palliative care program that Danbury Hospital has had in place since 2004. Until now, the service was only available to inpatients and outpatients visiting the Praxair Cancer Center and select nursing homes. The palliative care team, which consists of expert physicians, advanced practice nurses, social workers, and chaplains, supports more than 1,000 patients a year.

“When palliative care specialists join a treatment team in the early stages of a disease, the patient can develop the knowledge and trust needed to make difficult decisions as the disease progresses,” said Dr. John J. Chronakos, a specialist in pulmonary diseases and sleep disorders at Danbury Hospital. “Eventually, the patient may have to choose between a treatment whose likelihood of success is low, and medications that will relieve pain or manage symptoms but not fight the disease itself. It’s much easier to make that choice with members of your medical care team, with whom you’ve already developed a relationship, rather than meeting them for the first time in the hospital.”

Having a holistic plan for symptom control and quality of life when the patient is in the community (i.e., an outpatient), can also reduce hospital readmissions – a key goal of the Affordable Care Act. Danbury Hospital’s palliative care treatment program for nursing home residents who had been released from the Hospital resulted in a reduction in re-admissions from eight percent to three percent in five years.

“Bringing palliative care to the patient at an early stage in a serious illness is vital to enabling each individual to live life as he or she chooses,” added Dr. Chaubey. “We hope to someday have the resources to provide palliative care services to patients visiting their primary care physician’s office.”