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A ‘better death:’ Patients, doctors start discussing end-of-life care

From YakimaHerald.com

If medical students are entering the profession hoping to cure people, chaplain Laurie Oswalt likes to say, they’re going to end up with a zero percent success rate, because eventually, everybody dies.

But if their goal is to improve quality of life, she tells them, “They can have 100 percent.”

“It’s about how they helped the person live their life in the best way possible,” Oswalt said.

To address the challenge of providing end-of-life care that best suits patient wishes when most patients and even most doctors are reluctant to talk about the inevitable, Medicare has proposed reimbursing physicians for having end-of-life conversations.

The hope is that this will empower patients and providers to openly discuss questions such as who should make medical decisions once the patient is no longer capable, and what level of care they want to receive in a potentially life-ending experience — and to have those conversations before a crisis arises.

It’s a long time coming, doctors say, though it remains to be seen whether reimbursement levels will be enough to make a real difference.

“If it’s reimbursed significantly, that gives you 30 minutes to talk with patients about their desires,” said Dr. Joe Vickers, a family practitioner at Ahtanum Ridge Family Medicine and the interim medical director of Yakima Regional Medical and Cardiac Center’s hospice program. Read the full story here.