Understanding Palliative Care and Hospice: A Review for Primary Care Providers

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Abstract

Palliative care provides invaluable clinical management and support for patients and their families. For most people, palliative care is not provided by hospice and palliative medicine specialists, but rather by their primary care providers. The recognition of hospice and palliative medicine as its own medical subspecialty in 2006 highlighted the importance of palliative care to the practice of medicine, yet many health care professionals harbor misconceptions about palliative care, which may be a barrier to ensuring that the palliative care needs of their patients are identified and met in a timely fashion. When physicians discuss end-of-life concerns proactively, many patients choose more comfort-focused care and receive care more aligned with their values and goals. This article defines palliative care, describes how it differs from hospice, debunks some common myths associated with hospice and palliative care, and offers suggestions on how primary care providers can integrate palliative care into their practice.

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