Ask the Expert: Palliative Care
Date: October 7, 2013
Physician Paula Noe, M.D., has joined the Division of General Internal Medicine and specializes in palliative care. Below, she answers some common questions about end-of-life care.
What is the difference between palliative care and hospice care?
Hospice care is designed for patients who no longer wish to pursue curative treatments and who doctors feel have an estimated prognosis of six months or less. Hospice helps patients receive the care they need to be comfortable.
Palliative care focuses on comfort and quality of life from the time a serious illness is diagnosed onward, with no limitations on a patient’s prognosis or treatment plan. It can be provided alongside any other treatment a patient is receiving and can often help patients tolerate those treatments better. Many palliative care services, like the one at Johns Hopkins Bayview, treat patients in the hospital or clinic setting.
Is palliative care only for patients with chronic illness?
Palliative care focuses on improving the quality of life for patients and families living with serious illness. Chronic disease can affect all aspects of a person’s life—physical, social, psychological and spiritual.
At Johns Hopkins Bayview, our team includes a physician board-certified in palliative medicine, a social worker, a chaplain and a pharmacist—all with special experience and training in helping with the effects of illness. This multidisciplinary approach can be helpful for patients at any stage of illness and receiving all forms of treatment. A primary goal of palliative care is to provide pain and symptom management.
Can palliative care be accessed on an outpatient basis?
The palliative care team at Johns Hopkins Bayview is only available to provide consultation to patients admitted to the hospital. A chaplain also provides services to patients in the Thoracic Oncology Multidisciplinary Clinic in the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center. There are plans in the future for the Medical Center to open a clinic dedicated to palliative care.
Is palliative care covered by insurance? Do you need a referral from a physician?
Palliative care is a recognized medical specialty, just like cardiology, oncology or any other specialized field in medicine. Visits by a palliative care doctor are covered by insurance. (Note: Please consult with your insurance company before seeking palliative care.) In the hospital, the attending doctor needs to ask for a consultation from the palliative care team; however, a patient or family can always request this.
Why is it important to receive care at a hospital that offers palliative care?
Palliative care provides an extra layer of support for patients and families. Our team identifies and addresses every concern of the patient and his or her family. Working closely with the patient’s primary doctor, we ensure the patient is as comfortable as possible and that the patient’s goals and values are at the center of the treatment plan.