Those of us in healthcare regularly hear the observation that our industry is very fragmented, especially for those who have severe or chronic conditions. It can be very hard to navigate “the system.” In a modest way, supportive care addresses patients with chronic or terminal illnesses to ensure they get the right care at the right time.
Supportive care can be defined as an approach to and highly-structured system of coordinated services across the continuum of care, meeting the individualized needs of each patient facing chronic, progressive and/or terminal illnesses utilizing an interdisciplinary model of care. For OSF HealthCare, this means addressing patients with diseases like cancer, organ failure and frailty/dementia.
Providing care to patients with persisting conditions requires the provision of interdisciplinary care. We know that people don’t suffer in isolation. They suffer in constellations which include their families, so when OSF’s Supportive Care Model is defined, both patients and their loved ones must be included as part of the unit to be treated.
The patient-specific goals of our Supportive Care Model within OSF HealthCare came about from conferring with other leading healthcare systems, such as Mt. Carmel Health System in Columbus, Ohio, and the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Palliative care, a key component of supportive care, was addressed:
- Patients will never be overwhelmed by symptoms.
- Patients’ care will be continuous, comprehensive and coordinated.
- Patients will be provided with whatever information is necessary to help them understand their condition. They will have the opportunity to discuss their condition with family members and care providers.
- Patients’ decisions are important and will be discussed, respected and followed whenever possible.
There are two “first phase” tasks that OSF has been working on this past year in an effort to implement this new model of care:
- Because of the high number of patients who die while in hospitals, OSF hospitals are planning to implement an acute palliative care program to meet the specific needs of their patients. Each hospital has identified a team to help them in this planning process and will make their final determination of how they plan to provide inpatient palliative care effective October 1st.
- Implement a complete and standardized advanced care planning model across the continuum by October 1st. This project has been assigned to the Supportive Care Collaborative Teams.
Creating a Supportive Care Model requires changes in how patients are diagnosed and subsequently treated and cared for. This means care providers and their current processes will have to be modified to create a better integrated system more easily navigated by patients and their loved ones. These types of changes take time. OSF HealthCare has just completed its first year of this multi-year initiative, and is very pleased with the enthusiastic support and cooperation of physicians. We realize the tremendous benefits our patients and their families will experience as a result. As expected when embarking on new programs like this, other healthcare providers have quickly shown interest in learning about our efforts, successes and challenges in this area. IBI