Improving quality of life for patients and their families is a top priority for ACS CAN’s advocacy agenda, and advancing policies that expand access to palliative care is an essential component of our work to support cancer patients around the country.
Palliative Care Legislation Signed in Maryland
As our campaign to improve patients' quality of life heats up at the federal level with the introduction of two important pieces of legislation, several states are making significant advances in their own efforts. On Thursday, Maryland became the first state to enact legislation that will help improve access to palliative care for people with serious illnesses and their families. It's a victory worth celebrating!
The Hospitals Establishment of Palliative Care Programs in Maryland bill requires the establishment of at least five palliative care pilot programs as selected by the Maryland Health Care Commission (MHCC) in hospitals with at least 50 beds. The pilot programs must follow certain procedures and are required to collaborate with health care providers to measure whether the pilot programs impact health care costs, improve access to health care and enhance patient choice. The programs must then notify the MHCC of their findings and best practices, and the MHCC must then deliver a report to Maryland's General Assembly by December 1, 2015.
The legislation also requires all hospitals to inform patients and their families about the availability of palliative care. This is an important step forward in developing a high-quality standardized palliative care program in Maryland's hospitals and making these programs available to cancer patients and their families.
ACS CAN staff and volunteers were instrumental in getting this legislation passed. ACS CAN also worked closely with partners from Johns Hopkins University, University of Maryland Medical Center, MD Hospital Association, MD Hospice and Palliative Care Association and Palliative Care Physicians.
Too many patients suffer from pain, shortness of breath, nausea and other symptoms of chronic disease with no idea that palliative care can relieve their symptoms and help them focus on beating their disease. Palliative care is proven to improve patients' quality of life, help patients live longer and save the system money by coordinating care among a patient's doctors, nurses and other specialists in a team-based approach that can be applied at any stage of diagnosis. Maryland's efforts to make palliative care programs more accessible to people living with serious illnesses and their families are unprecedented. I hope it sparks a trend in other states who are interested in ensuring that patients receive the extra layer of support they need to fight a serious disease such as cancer.