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Palliative Care an ‘Important Piece’ of Quality in Oncology Programs

Oncology practices have increasingly collaborated with palliative care providers — or built their own service lines — to better support cancer patients throughout their health care journeys.

Cancer patients can benefit from the interdisciplinary support of a palliative care team, but a main barrier to access is that oncology clinicians often lack insight around these services, according to Dr. Julie Gralow, chief medical officer and executive vice president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

Integrating palliative care deeper into oncology practices “empowers” these providers to improve utilization and quality, she indicated.

“Not all cancer clinicians can be palliative care specialists, but palliative and supportive care is an important aspect of every patient’s treatment plan,” Gralow said in a recent announcement.

Having practical communication tools and educational resources available is a large part of integrating palliative and supportive care into oncology practices, according to Dr. Ramy Sedhom, co-leader of ASCO’s Palliative Care Communities of Practice program. He is also a medical oncologist and clinical director of palliative care at Penn Medicine Princeton Health.

“We all should be prepared to provide palliative and supportive care to all of our patients when appropriate,” Sedhom stated in the announcement.

Among the reasons is the impact that palliative care can have on patient outcomes. Early palliative care interventions led to higher quality of life and less depression among 350 lung and gastrointestinal cancer patients in an ASCO study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

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