Palliative care is a subspecialty in medicine that helps patients with serious illness and their families have an extra layer of support. It’s a service that is in addition to the care that they are already getting. It is provided whether the goal of that care is curative or not, no matter the disease stage and no matter the age of the patient.
We’re there to provide both medical and symptom management, and also psychosocial and spiritual support. We’re there to provide whole patient care, so patients can do well with their medical treatments and live well.
Palliative care is provided by physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, social workers and also spiritual care providers. We do it as a team, and that’s really important because each of those fields has their own expertise. We work together in an integrated way to make sure that patients’ needs are met.
Palliative care physicians are different than the rest of the physician world in that we try very hard to integrate not just our medical expertise, but also the psychosocial and spiritual support of patients and families.
We look at the patient and family as a unit, and whatever that family makeup may be. The goal is to help provide support in a team-based way and a coordinated way to help people live well, no matter what the disease is or what the prognosis is.
Palliative care is provided as a consultation. We expect that patients will continue to follow with their primary physician or the doctors who are treating their primary illness. We are sort of an extra layer of support that comes alongside the other care that’s being provided. They don’t give up anything to see us. In fact, they gain extra support.
Insurance covers palliative care services, just like they would cover any other consultation service, like the cardiologist or the orthopedic surgeon. Their insurance will cover that to help support their care. So, it’s not anything different than like another consultation.
Palliative care is different than hospice care in that palliative care can be for anyone who has a serious illness, at any stage of disease, with any prognosis and any age. It’s really about providing an extra layer of support to the care they’re already getting, which may be curative. In fact, we may help people tolerate their curative treatments in an easier way.
Hospice care is a really important component of care for people that is focused on end-of-life care, and supporting people whose disease cannot be cured. It is a program for people who have a limited prognosis. While it is an important component of palliative care, palliative care is actually much bigger than hospice care itself.
For hospice services in San Diego County, our Scripps palliative care services refer to the many excellent organizations that exist in the community. But our palliative care services are focused in the hospital and the outpatient clinic. We can provide resources for people who are looking for hospice services.