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Department of Veterans Affairs, West Los Angeles Medical Center
The Center for Patient-Focused Care of the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Medical Center implemented a program that improved end-of-life care for veterans diagnosed with terminal illnesses.
"Pathways for Caring" integrated palliative care into its continuum of services for veterans diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer, advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, end-stage liver cirrhosis or advanced congestive heart failure. Multidisciplinary teams developed care plans, called critical pathways, that provided patient education, informing goal setting, continuity of care and comprehensive clinical and supportive services.
The project focused on symptom control, psychosocial and spiritual care, advanced care planning and overall case management. Multidisciplinary teams, made up of doctors, nurses, social workers, clinicians and pastoral caregivers, worked with volunteers from Compassion in Action to provide palliative care. Veterans who might otherwise be forced to die alone are now more likely to have companionship and comfort in their final days.
The "critical pathways" are a set of protocols that integrate state-of-the-art, hospital-based care with home-based and hospice care. Trinity Home Health and Hospice provided home health care as needed, enabling patients to receive hospital-based as well as home or hospice care according to their needs.
The project contributed to a new end-of-life care curriculum for the University of California-Los Angeles School of Medicine, one of the nation's largest teaching hospitals. The center's cutting-edge computer system is measuring the effect of the project on patient outcomes, the quality of life's end and the cost of care contributing to national efforts to improve end-of-life care.
After the Grant
Project staff sustained and expanded (with both staff and space) the services to include veterans with all poor prognosis diagnoses. The West LA Veterans Affairs Medical Center received a four-year randomized control trial based on the Pathways program that is anticipated to serve as a basis for national dissemination.
Promoting Excellence in End-of-Life Care was a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation dedicated to long-term changes in health care institutions to substantially improve care for dying people and their families.