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Improving Palliative Care for Cancer
providing in-service training for local hospice staff in new palliative care techniques.
Recommendation 2: NCI should add the requirement of research in palliative care and symptom control for recognition as a “Comprehensive Cancer Center.”
Practices and policies that govern payment for palliative care (in both public and private sectors) hinder delivery of the most appropriate mix of services for patients who could benefit from palliative care during the course of their illness and treatments.
Recommendation 3: The Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA)should fund demonstration projects for service delivery and reimbursement that integrate palliative care and potentially life-prolonging treatments throughout the course of disease.
Recommendation 4: Private insurers should provide adequate compensation for end-of-life care. The special circumstances of dying children—particularly the need for extended communication with children and parents, as well as health care team conferences—should be taken into accountin setting reimbursement levels and in actually paying claims for theseservices when providers bill for them.
Information on palliative and end-of-life care is largely absent from materials developed for the public about cancer treatment. In addition, reliable information about survival from different types and stages of cancer is not routinely included with treatment information.
Recommendation 5: Organizations that provide information about cancertreatment (NCI, the American Cancer Society, and other patient-orientedorganizations [e.g., disease-specific groups]; health insurers; and pharmaceutical companies) should revise their inventories of patient-orientedmaterial, as appropriate, to provide comprehensive, accurate informationabout palliative care throughout the course of disease. Patients would alsobe helped by having reliable information on survival by type and stage ofcancer easily accessible. Attention should be paid to cultural relevance andspecial populations (e.g., children).
Practice guidelines for palliative care and for other end-of-life issues are in comparatively early stages of development, and quality indicators are even more embryonic. Progress toward their further development and implementation requires continued encouragement by professional societies, funding bodies, and payers of care.