A poster presented at the Center to Advance Palliative Care national seminar in San Diego in November described a growing collaboration between the HM service and the palliative-care team at a Wisconsin medical center as part of efforts to control readmissions using tools from SHM’s Project BOOST (Better Outcomes for Older Adults through Safe Transitions).
On admission to 227-bed Aurora West Allis (Wis.) Medical Center, all patients assigned to a hospitalist are assessed for readmission risk factors. If a risk factor is identified, the hospital has established a set of specific interventions, including a palliative-care consultation.
“Basically, we took the BOOST tools and developed a physician action plan behind those risk factors,” says Andrew McDonagh, MD, head of the center’s hospitalist service.
Dr. McDonagh started Aurora West Allis’ HM service in 2008, and Timothy Jessick, DO, initiated the palliative-care service in 2010. “As our programs grew together, it became apparent that there were significant synergies between the two specialties, so we took the opportunity to work together in several ways,” Dr. McDonagh says.
A Palliative Care Quality Indicators Checklist, which looks for four key clinical indicators, triggers hospitalists and unit nurses to order the palliative consult. If an elderly patient has multiple admissions for the same diagnosis, the second admission triggers a geriatric consultation, and the third admission gets a palliative-care consult.
Hospitalists at the medical center are given education and modeling on how to hold family conferences with patients and their families to elicit their goals of care. Collaboration between HM and palliative care is spreading to the hospital’s ICUs, to patients transitioning out of the hospital to nursing homes, and to two other Aurora hospitals in the Milwaukee area, Dr. McDonagh explains. Since the BOOST tools have been implemented, preliminary evidence points to reduced readmissions, increased patient satisfaction, and increased palliative-care consults at the hospital.
“In the future, doing our job well as hospitalists will be more than just addressing medical needs but tailoring our care plans to the individual patient. Palliative care helps us better define appropriate care for these patients, looking beyond the trees for the forest,” he says. “I believe I’m a better clinician for being part of this relationship.”