In the minds of most, medicine and technology go hand-in-hand. But, for palliative medicine – a medical specialty focused on improving quality of life for people facing life-limiting, chronic, or serious illness – effective communication is the most important tool.

“Palliative medicine doesn’t have fancy instruments,” said Ann Curry, MHS, PA-C, Dignity Health, Yavapai Regional Medical Group, Palliative Medicine (formerly YRMC PhysicianCare). “Our primary tool is communication. The role of palliative medicine is to provide an extra layer of care and support for patients and families. This doesn’t replace the curative treatment the patient may be receiving.”

How Palliative Medicine Enhances Curative Care
All healthcare providers offer some form of palliative support. However Yavapai Regional Medical Group, Palliative Medicine is available – with a referral from a healthcare provider – to people who are dealing with complex illnesses. In the capable hands of the Palliative Medicine team, communication during a major health issue is a powerful tool.

“Our Palliative Medicine team can help interpret information that might otherwise be a little confusing for patients and families,” explains Sam W. Downing, MD, Director of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine for Yavapai Regional Medical Group. “We do have the time to dedicate toward helping people understand their diagnosis, treatment plans, and choices. That’s among our many roles.”

Yavapai Regional Medical Group, Palliative Medicine offers patients and their loved ones essential services, including:

  • Symptom and pain control that’s related to their medical condition. (This is different than chronic pain management, which Palliative Medicine does not offer.)
  • Supportive care, such as helping patients transition to assisted living or a skilled nursing facility.
  • Services in hospital or non-hospital settings—a unique structure among non-urban palliative medicine programs.
  • Education about their disease process, which their healthcare providers may be unable to provide due to time constraints.
  • Advance care planning, like a living will and a durable medical power of attorney .
  • 24-7 access to healthcare providers – physicians, physician assistants, a registered nurse, or a nurse practitioner – from Yavapai Regional Medical Group, Palliative Medicine.
  • A Palliative Medicine social worker who offers resources, information, and support to patients and families dealing with the wide-ranging challenges of a serious illness.

Palliative Medicine is not Hospice
“We walk along side of people who are facing life-limiting illness,” says Curry. “Even people whose conditions are curable may face a high-symptom burden, spiritual distress and many other issues.”

When can palliative medicine begin for a patient? Unlike hospice, where patients qualify if they have a life expectancy of six months or less, the Yavapai Regional Medical Group, Palliative Medicine team can step in at any stage of illness. Their assistance helps patients to:

  • Better control their symptoms.
  • Cope more effectively with their illness.
  • Experience less depression.
  • Plan for future care needs.

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. The 2020 theme – It’s About How You Live – resonates with Curry.

“Palliative medicine is about aligning people’s values with the healthcare they receive,” she says. “It’s how you live on a day-to-day basis.”

Want to learn more about Dignity Health Yavapai Regional Medical Group, Palliative Medicine? Talk to your primary care or specialist provider, visit YRMC.org, or call 928-775-5567.