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Palliative Care Earns Joint Commission Certification

Friday, June 22, 2012

Highland Hospital has become one of the first hospitals to receive Advanced Certification for Palliative Care from the Joint Commission, the nation's main accrediting body in health care. Palliative care focuses on alleviating suffering and providing symptom-relieving care and support during all stages of serious illness, including end of life.

"This truly distinguished a remarkable team," said Daniel Mendelson, M.S., M.D., Director of the Palliative Care Consult Service. "It's validation of our excellent program and our dedication at Highland."

"It's one thing to say you're good," said Chin-Lin Ching, M.D., Associate Director of Palliative Care. "It's another to have the Joint Commission say what we're doing is up to par with national standards."

The certification is a result of a rigorous site visit from a Joint Commission surveyor. The decision is based on standards of care, clinical practice guidelines and performance measurement activities. Palliative care programs that successfully demonstrate compliance are awarded a two-year certification.

Highland's core palliative care team consists of seven physicians, a nurse practitioner, a chaplain, a hospice nurse, three social workers and several nurses. The extended team includes pharmacists, physical therapists, dieticians, and other services as needed.

"It's often hard to have a dual role of providing treatment and helping to support people who are dying or seriously ill," said Nurse Practitioner Elaine Townsend, GNP. "Our team has more dedicated time to provide that support to patients and their families and look at the big picture."

"We focus on relieving symptoms, and then patients can enjoy their days because they're not hurting or suffering."

Polly Moore, RN, Quality Improvement Coordinator, ensured the team met all requirements for certification before the site visit. She says the recognition demonstrates Highland's commitment to its patients.

"We increased awareness of the palliative care services available and the benefits they provide to caregivers, patients and families during this certification process," Moore said.

Highland has experienced steady growth in the number of patients utilizing this service. There were 46 consults in February 2012 - that's up from 24 consults in July 2011. More than 400 consults have been performed at Highland this fiscal year.

Highland is the second in the region and the fifth in New York State to receive this recognition. The palliative care program at Strong Memorial Hospital received certification in November two months after the Joint Commission launched the Advanced Certification for Palliative Care.

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