At Hallmark Health System, which includes Lawrence Memorial Hospital of Medford and Melrose-Wakefield Hospital, members of the Palliative Care Consultation Service seek to alleviate pain and discomfort to improve the quality of life of patients dealing with life-limiting, though not necessarily end-stage, illness. As the Medical Director, Samir Patel, MD explains “an important finding in this article was that palliative care should be utilized at all stages of life-limiting disease including from the time of diagnosis.”
The Service functions as a team consisting of a physician, nurse practitioner, social worker and chaplain. Most consultations are provided by Martha Quigley, MS, RN/NP and supported by the other team members. Quigley believes palliative care is a valuable resource for physicians, nurses and the families they serve.
“The team works to ensure that patients and families receive the type of care they want,” she said. “Symptoms are treated, relieved and patients and families have a sense of control to make decisions that are consistent with their definition of quality of life.”
“We provide a lot of support, education and help improve communication among the patient, family and the treatment team members,” explains Anna Ventura, LICSW. “We work to ensure that the patient’s wishes are addressed.”
At Hallmark Health, the team broadens the disease-model medical treatments to include goals of enhancing the quality of life for the patient and family, optimizing function and addressing the physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual needs of the patient and their families.
Referral criteria for palliative care consultations include symptoms (pain, shortness of breath, agitation, among others) in a patient with a life-limiting or progressive illness such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, dementia, cancer or similar conditions.
A patient’s medical diagnosis may indicate the possibility of shortened life. These situations require discussions, which include reviewing treatment options, considering aggressive care, less aggressive care or any combination of care that is consistent with the patient’s preferences and goals. Goals of care are impacted by events occurring in the patient’s and families’ lives, the patient’s definition of quality of life and preferences. Palliative care is instrumental in addressing these issues and supporting patients and families with complex decision making and determining goals of care.
Patients who choose Hallmark Health also have the added benefit of the continuum of care that is available through the Hallmark Health VNA & Hospice, which has been consistently named to HomeCare Elite, a national compilation of the top performing home health agencies in the country and recognized by MassPro, the state’s Medicare quality improvement organization, for the high quality of its clinical care. This spring, the program scored in the 98th percentile in national patient satisfaction scores measured by an independent firm that measures quality of care.
Hallmark Health System is the premier, charitable provider of vital health services to Boston's northern communities. The system includes Lawrence Memorial Hospital of Medford; Melrose Wakefield Hospital, Melrose; Hallmark Health Cancer Center, Stoneham; The CHEM Center for MRI, Stoneham; Hallmark Health Medical Center, Reading; Hallmark Health VNA and Hospice, Malden; Lawrence Memorial/Regis College Nursing and Radiography Programs, Medford and Hallmark Health Medical Associates, Inc. Hallmark Health is affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital for cardiology and Tufts Medical Center for neonatology.