WIHI: Palliative Care = Quality Care

Date: April 21, 2011


  • Jennifer Temel, MD, Director, Fellowship Program at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH); Clinical Director, Thoracic Oncology, MGH; Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School
  • Daniel Ray, MD, Medical Director, Medical Critical Care Program and Fellowship Director, Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Lehigh Valley Health Network
  • Allan Ramsay, MD, Medical Director, Palliative Care Service, Fletcher Allen Health Care; Professor and Associate Chair, Department of Family Medicine, University of Vermont College of Medicine

Sometimes when a researcher’s work gets published in an academic journal, intense media attention isn’t the full story. Since August 2010, when Dr. Jennifer Temel’s New England Journal of Medicine article was published, the findings have had a major impact on clinical leaders on the frontlines of palliative care. Just ask Dr. Allan Ramsay from Fletcher Allen in Vermont. He and his colleagues couldn’t pass around the NEJM article fast enough! For the first time, a prominent study showed that patients newly diagnosed with terminal lung cancer who received palliative care not only experienced less pain and better quality of life, they also lived longer.

The benefits of palliative care, and indeed the entire concept, have often been obscured by more intense debates and focus on hospice and what patients need at the very end of life. And, for understandable reasons. But palliative care, as a viable approach and a set of practices that can relieve suffering and improve daily life for patients facing life-threatening illnesses is gaining ground in outpatient and inpatient settings alike. As we witness this evolution in real time, this WIHI gets closer to researchers and clinicians shaping the programs and services. Some, like Dr. Daniel Ray at Lehigh Valley, have been working on building the professional skill sets and patient-centered processes for the past decade.

WIHI host Madge Kaplan talks with Drs. Temel, Ramsay, and Ray to learn from their expertise and get a better sense of palliative care as an integrated and integral part of the quality agenda. The trio is eager to help others in health care find ways to overcome real and perceived barriers, using evidence, education, and small tests of change.


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