Author: Britanny Holand
Truth be told, the conclusion about the life of critically ill patients is among the most difficult decisions to make. It is heartbreaking to imagine the families torn between holding on to their loved ones or letting them have their peace. This is why the new palliative care screening tool is built; to help with the decision-making process focused on quality of life. It is most helpful when even aggressive medical interventions are no longer effective in extending patients’ lives.
Moreover, the research team from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the one that decided to develop the screening tool to effectively increase awareness around palliative care and help with palliative care consultations. The research findings are then presented at the Scientific Forum during the American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress 2022. Fortunately, the research succeeded because it effectively identified Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU) patients that were later categorized as qualified for palliative care.
Technically speaking, palliative care treatment mostly involves symptom management and supportive communication. It differs from aggressive medical interventions because the treatment focuses on providing SICU patients with the best quality of life possible. From the medical professionals’ perspective, they want the palliative care discussions to be happening sooner. Simply put, they want family members to accept that their patient is sick.
Here are the key findings for the palliative care screening tool
Surely, the palliative care screening tool is developed as a helpful questionnaire. To be more precise, it has 12 “yes/no” questions—each yes is considered a strong indicator that the patient would benefit from a palliative care treatment more than aggressive medical interventions. The questionnaire method is more formal, yet the tool is close to how medical professionals decide which critically ill patients qualify for palliative care treatment.
Back then, the positive indicator that critically ill patients were better off for palliative care and treatment was when the medical professionals treating them already considered the option, or the ICU or surgical team would no longer be surprised if they died or the patients had comorbidities.
What’s helpful about the screening tool is that it was able to scan patients within limits.
The tool has helped decide early for critically ill patients to have their best quality of life, no longer wasting time on ineffective medications. Ultimately, the screening tool eases the burden on both sides: the medical team and family members.
What to Expect
Unknown to many, palliative care isn’t defined as medical professionals giving up on their patients. Many are hesitant to discuss palliative care earlier because they don’t want the patient’s family members to misunderstand their decision. Thus, the best definition is doctors’ goal to give critically ill patients the best care and treatment they need.
Because of the positive result of the palliative care screening tool when identifying patients that are qualified to get care, you can expect that it will be more positively recognized, as a great help over time. After all, it is developed to facilitate decision-making for families, easing their burden of doubting whether they made the best decision for their loved ones.