Medicare to Pay Physicians to have End-of-Life Conversation with Patients
Death Panels or End of Life Counselling?
On July 8th the Medicare program announced plans to pay physicians to have an end-of-life conversation with patients. So is this the “death panel” that was warned about when the Affordable Care Act was being debated?
Likely not. I believe Medicare is recognizing is that physicians do not have a great deal of time to spend with patients in a typical office visit. The subject of death can take extra effort and consume additional clinic time. The Medicare program is merely recognizing that having the conversation about end-of-life planning may prompt questions that are difficult to absorb, and because of that it is now willing to reimburse physicians for the conversation and the time it requires.
I believe that it is beneficial for physicians to discuss the prognosis and end-of-life care with his or her patients. It may help patients live their last year and days as they desire and with greater purpose. It may also prevent some family troubles. There are occasions where there is conflict within a family over a patient’s final wish as it relates to treatment options. While it does not happen frequently, heated conversations can occur when siblings do not agree. Some of this can be avoided with better communication.
So, is end-of-life counselling a good idea? I would agree that it is, as long as a real and honest conversation occurs and not just a form pushed at a patient and a box checked to say that it was done.
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