Long-term-care panel formed
■ A system designed for acute care must adapt to an aging population living with chronic illness.
By Andis Robeznieks — Posted Nov. 8, 2004
Merely having 10 times as many nursing homes will not be the answer to quality issues facing the long-term-care needs of the nation's aging population, said Kenneth Kizer, MD, president of the National Quality Forum.
In an effort to come up with better solutions, the NQF has convened a commission -- co-chaired by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey -- that will recommend goals for long-term-care quality improvement, assess improvement efforts and proposals, and provide a national forum for discussing quality improvement.
At a press conference held last month announcing the creation of the panel, Kerrey and Dr. Kizer hinted at the increased role primary care physicians will play by noting that the current health care system was designed for dealing with acute illness, but more than 60 million Americans have chronic illnesses -- a number that will increase as the population ages.
The commission's 14 members include Dr. Kizer, Gingrich, Kerrey, author Michael L. Millenson and Richard Payne, MD, who heads the Duke Institute on Care at the End of Life at Duke University Divinity School in Durham, N.C.
In an interview with American Medical News, Dr. Payne said that, in addition to health care concerns, attention needs to be paid to the emotional, psychosocial and spiritual well-being of patients receiving long-term care. He expressed confidence that this can be done.
"Absolutely, these things can be measured," Dr. Payne said. "You can measure the effect of an intervention and how it improves outcomes. Most patients in long-term-care systems have physical symptoms such as pain. Are they adequately dealt with? Before dying, how many patients were referred to hospice programs? A long-term facility that is not attuned to this is not providing good care."
The commission holds its first meeting Dec. 3 in Washington, D.C.
The National Quality Forum is a nonprofit organization created to develop a national strategy for quality measurement and reporting. The American Medical Association is a member.