Oklahoma-based INTEGRIS Health system is expanding its palliative care services in its acute care facilities as well as in the home and community. This continues a trend in which a rising number of hospitals and health systems are expanding their services into patient homes, particularly when it comes to palliative care.
The company, which operates 14 hospitals, has hired a physician and a team of nurse practitioners to manage the program, led by Ashley Muckala, D.O. She is board-certified in both internal medicine and hospice and palliative medicine. The program will also include telemedicine and outpatient services.
“The presence of palliative care ensures that every patient with advanced illness has their symptoms optimally managed, so they may achieve the best quality of life possible,” Muckala said. “I also believe it is crucial that patients be empowered to take an active role in their health care decisions, so their specific goals of care can be honored.”
The program’s goals include providing assistance to chronically ill patients and families and improving their quality of life through advanced disease management, pain assessment, symptom relief and identification of available treatment options.
During 2019, a number of other hospitals and health systems introduced home and community-based palliative care programs, including North Dakota-based CHI-St. Alexius Health System; Athens, Ga.-headquartered St. Mary’s Health System; SSM Health and Allina Health.
Home-based palliative care could reduce societal health care costs by $103 billion nationwide within two decades, according to the nonprofit economic research group Florida TaxWatch.
Palliative care in general can reduce health care costs by more than $4,000 per patient, according to a July 2017 study in Health Affairs. It can also reduce the frequency of 911 calls, emergency department visits, and unnecessary hospitalizations.
Nearly 80% of consumers who received background information on palliative care said they would choose it for themselves or their loved ones, according to a recent survey by the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC).
“As a result of my experience in practicing medicine, I have found there is a profound need for palliative care services and the vital role an advance practice provider plays in increasing the quality of life for patients with a chronic medical diagnosis. Initiation of palliative care services enhances treatment and prevention of suffering,” said nurse practitioner Kelly Briggs. “I will also observe each patient’s spiritual, cultural, physiological, mental and familial aspects of care.”