The Duke Endowment has awarded the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) a $1.27 million grant to create a statewide program combining two popular trends in the health care industry — palliative care and telehealth.
The primary objectives of the program are to offer end-of-life care to South Carolina’s population and increase the knowledge of what palliative care is across the state.
“Our goal is to bring palliative care to areas that don’t necessarily have access,” Lauren Seidenschmidt, palliative care program manager at MUSC, told Home Health Care News.
Access to palliative care is concentrated in the three major cities in South Carolina: Greenville, Columbia and Charleston. MUSC plans to spread palliative care to the outlying areas of the state by utilizing telehealth, Seidenschmidt said.
MUSC has a robust telehealth center that the new palliative care program will tap into, she added.
Palliative care is provided by a team of doctors, nurses, social workers and others who work together to provide an extra layer of support, often in home- and community-based settings. The care focuses on providing relief of symptoms and stress to people with serious illnesses, no matter the diagnosis.
“A lot of people have misconceptions about palliative care,” Seidenschmidt said. “We built in a component [into the grant from The Duke Endowment] to do palliative care education. So, there is a marketing component — we will be going out and kind of advertising that we have this program [and what palliative care is].”
Charleston-based MUSC is one of the oldest medical schools in the southern portion of the United States. The university educates and trains over 3,000 students and 700 residents across six colleges.
The Duke Endowment is a private foundation based in Charlotte. It has distributed more than $3.6 billion in grants since its founding in 1924.
Access to palliative care has seen an increase in the last 10 years across the U.S., but the majority of care is still provided in hospitals. In 2015, an average of 4.8% of hospital admissions received palliative care, according to a report from the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) and the National Palliative Care Research Center (NPCRC).
However, in-home care providers are beginning to see the potential of high-cost palliative care as health care overall shifts from volume to value.
New York City-based CAPC is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the availability of palliative care services. CAPC provides health care professionals with training and tools to start palliative care programs.
NPCRC is working to provide palliative care research. The organization coordinates and supports studies focused on improving palliative care.
The palliative care sector has seen some noteworthy business activity in the last few years. Anthem, Inc. (NYSE: ANTM) bought Nashville-based Aspire Health, the nation’s largest non-hospice, community-based palliative care provider in February. Over the past two years, Michigan-based Spectrum Health System has developed a community-based continuum of care that includes palliative care.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has seen the need for more palliative care options, too. In May 2018, McMaster signed a bill into law to evaluate the state’s health care resources for seriously and terminally ill patients and established the state’s first Palliative Care and Quality of Life Study Committee.
“Palliative care programs have demonstrated the ability to support patients with serious illness by improving pain and symptom management, reducing anxiety and depression, and increasing patient and family satisfaction,” Lin Hollowell, director of health care for The Duke Endowment, said in a press release. “By bringing an intentional focus on holistically meeting the needs of patients facing serious, life-threatening illnesses, this effort will improve care for people across South Carolina.”
For MUSC, this program is also an opportunity to expand its care, Seidenschmidt said.
“I don’t have a specific numerical goal, because I think anything we do will be more than what there is now,” she said. “I would like to measure some quality goals as far as, has our care been helpful to people in these outside facilities that are using our service.”
Written by Kaitlyn Mattson