#005 - Join host Dr. Red Hoffman as she interviews Dr. Diane Meier, a professor of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, as well as well as a professor of Medical Ethics, at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City (listen for NYC ambulances in the background!) Diane is the founder of the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) as well as a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (also known as a "genius grant.") She shares about the early days of CAPC and describes some of the educational offerings available through a CAPC membership (go online and type in your email to see if your organization is a member!). Diane also discusses the importance of tailoring your message for your audience and reminds us to be thoughtful about our language, particularly when we are attempting to define palliative care. I learned so much about communication from speaking with her! Enjoy!
Learn more about CAPC here.
To learn more about the surgical palliative care community, visit us on twitter @surgpallcare.
surgical Palliative care may seem counterintuitive, but surgeons have a rich history of pallid both their patients and their families. I am Red Hoffman in Acute care surgeon in Asheville, North Carolina, and one of 79 surgeons currently board certified in hospice and palliative medicine. Join me as I interviewed the founders and the leaders of the Surgical Palliative Care Movement, a diverse group of surgeons dedicated to providing a high quality palliative medicine to all surgical and trauma patients. Welcome to the surgical palliative care podcast. We heal with more than steel. Hi, everybody. This is Red Hoffman. Thank you so much for joining me for another episode of the surgical palliative care podcast today. I am so honored to be speaking with Dr Diane Meyer. Diane is the founder of the Center to Advance Palliative Care, a very prolific author and editor and the recipient of many awards, including a MacArthur Foundation fellowship. She is a professor of geriatrics and palliative medicine as well as a professor of medical ethics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. Diane, thank you so much for your time. I'm very excited to chat with you.
Thanks for inviting me. Read happy here.
So, Diane, as we're getting started, can you share a little bit about yourself, where you grew up, where you trained and how you became interested in palliative medicine?
Sure, let's say I was born in Princeton, New Jersey, because my dad was there getting his PhD, and then we moved to Baltimore. And then when I was five, we moved to the South Side of Chicago to High Park, where I grew up and graduated from high school. And then I went to Oberlin College, and after college I applied to medical school and ended up at Northwestern, Um, in Chicago, where I did my undergraduate med medical education and then, for an adventure. I decided to move out to Portland, Oregon, because I, you know, I was in the East Coast person and a Midwest person. So I decided to see what it was like on the West Coast and applied for internship and residency at Oregon Health Sciences University, which is where I did my internal medicine internship and residency. And then I decided to do a geriatric medicine fellowship. Also important, and having completed that training, I took my first real job in New York City at the Department of Geriatrics at Mount Sinai. A brand new department. The first free standing department of geriatrics, probably in the world under the leadership of Dr Robert Butler. That's where I still am. I'm still at Mount Sinai. How many years later? Nearly, I don't know, 37 years later. Wow. But I've done a whole bunch of different things in the meantime during those years. How did
you go from geriatrics into palliative medicine?
Geriatrics was a brand new field back in the early eighties, on similar to how palliative medicine is in many places, greeted with a lot of suspicion. And we don't need that. We already know how to take care of old people. What I found happening is that we in geriatrics were sort of trying to be like everybody else. Just see people in the hospital do Consul ts have an outpatient clinic, do research on geriatric syndromes, but kind of accepted thestreet feature of the health care system as it waas as fixed unchangeable and anyone with two eyes could see the patients were really suffering and that a lot of the things we did as sort of standard of care not only didn't help people that actually hurt them, and I was having more and more difficulty feeling like what I was doing was what I had gone to medicals before I got into medical school to help people, and I was having trouble feeling like I was helping people. And right around that time, a whole bunch of foundations, both local and national, started recognizing that we had a problem with how we took care of people with serious illness in this country and making grant funding available. And I and several like minded colleagues I wrote some of those grant proposals and got funded. We were able to start a brand new Pelin Care Consulate service at Mount Sinai Um, in 1997 and, um, two years later, we were approached by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and asked to try to bring that model of hospital palliative care consultation to scale in the United States on and naively, we agreed to try, um so the center to advance palliative care was born in 99 only two years after we had gotten started with a clinical palliative care service at Mount Sinai so steep learning curve on both jobs.
And it seems like that, though you brought a lot of your medical knowledge to the founding of cap. See, it sounds like I think you said something like everything else I knew didn't even really help me here. Like I needed to learn all these other things. And so if you could talk a little more about that
to tell on apocryphal tale when the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation asked us for a proposal, um, to scale hospital palliative care across the country, um, me and my then chairperson Christine Cassel I remember sitting with her and agonizing about how much money to ask for the scale hospital belly care across the country. And we thought we were so smart. We were so Grant stabbing. We were gonna ask for more than they would ever give us, um, and negotiate down from there. So we thought we'd ask for $250,000 a year for three years to scale hospital palliative care across the country. This'll went in with our proposal, and a couple weeks later, I got a call from our project officer at Robert Wood Johnson, her name is Rosemary Gibson, and she said, Well, Diane, we got your proposal and I think we can work with this. And then there was a pause, and she said, But I have serious concerns about your budget. My heart sunk right. Oh, we over shop, she said. It's off by a factor of 10 on, I thought to myself, What do they expect us to do for $25,000 in here? So it was the other way, right? And so subsequent to that the Robert Wood Johnson funded cap see to the tune of nearly $100 million over in a 12 year period. And as you can imagine being a sort of ivory tower academic, I had no idea how to even think about a number that large, Um, how do you even think about what a budget should look like? I had no idea what I was getting myself into, and what I learned is that what I was getting myself into us running essentially running a political campaign on advertising and political campaign, getting the message out to a range of different audiences, all of whom had different concerns and different interests about why palliative care was a good thing and why they should care about so four patients and families. I needed audience research on what were the top concerns of patients and families, and it was not about having a good death. It was not about well. We thought people were interested in It was about living as well as possible for as long as possible, having a good quality of life, getting support for family members. And I had to understand what was most important to my colleagues and health care nurses, doctor, social workers and what was most important to them, interestingly, often was time they want. They were overwhelmed with work, drowning and work, and the patient population that needed palliative care was the most time consuming of all their patients. And so the message to them was, a pellet care team will help save you time. We will have those long family meetings. We will stay by the bedside and tie, trade, the pain medicines. We will make sure that there's good communication not only between you and the patient in the family, but the 15 other consultants that are involved in this patient's care. We will think about what constitutes a safe discharge for a patient like this, taking taking a burden of work and attention off front line clinicians who already had way more work than they could handle. So that was the message to clinicians. The message to hospital leaders. Waas. You need us because the care that we provide to your sickest and most complex patients will help people get through the hospitalization safely. With fewer hospital acquired infections and other risks, we will help people get home in a timely manner. We will help them avoid complications. We will help them avoid unnecessary image. ING interventions Pharmaceuticals, by improving their care quality, also greatly reduced the burden on taxpayers of unnecessary on inappropriate and dangerous hospital care. So as you can see, the messages for all three of these audiences are quite different. And then there were yet again different messages for policymakers and health insurance companies payers. So learning about audience specific messaging, which is a core element of marketing. Automobile companies really understand this. This is not a skill set that they teach you in medical or nurses exactly, even though it is an essential skill set for trying to change behavior. I mean, you can use marketing to make a profit, or you can use marketing to do good. But the core principles are that each audience has its own set of concerns. They're very different than those of us trying to get people to pay attention. And it shows respect for those audiences to ask them what their top concerns are and what would be valuable on meaningful to that, and then to try to talk about the benefits or the new idea that you're trying to convey in a context that is meaningful to them. I think your
point about patients and families being focused on quality of life rather than a good death is such an important point, because I think especially in the last years, as people have gotten more and more comfortable talking about death and dying through good books and documentaries and lots of articles in The New York Times, we do will spend a lot of time focusing on this idea of a good death iced, hear myself talk about it a lot, and I don't know that I've ever stopped and thought about how off putting that might be too many of my patients, right? Perhaps it's my own fault that palliative care and hospice often gets so confused, because here I am coming in as a palliative care provider but also wanting to use those
words, right? So those words are the quickest way to drive people away from Billy. If our goal is to improve access to palliative care for people who could benefit from understanding what's coming in the future from knowing that they have choices on different options, from knowing that there are sources of support for their exhausted, overwhelmed family caregiver, for knowing that they don't have to be in pain all the time and that they're terrible constipation can be matched and that their difficulty with transportation to get in to see their doctor can be addressed. That's way more patients than those who are at the end of life. In fact, the great majority of patients with serious and complex illness who are in a high need high cost category are not dying by framing ourselves as people who help people achieve a good death. We turn our back on that very large patient population who is suffering a lot, and we paint ourselves into this tiny little end of life. Um, and we have hospice for end of life care. And when people are clearly dying, we have hospice. That's not a gap. You know, we have an excellent hospice industry in this country, much better than almost any other developed nations. Thanks to the Medicare hospice benefit, what we don't have is high quality, quality of life care and whole person care for people living with serious chronic illnesses like COPD or dementia or hurt failure or end stage renal disease. Only a small fraction of their time with that illness, Are they dying? Um, and most of the time, we cannot predict that until very, very late in life. So to say, Well, unless we know that you're dying, you're really not eligible for. Our service is means we we cut ourselves off from being able to help literally hundreds of thousands of patients.
Thank you for that. I'm wondering, since you've been involved with the field of palliative care for so many years now, in your opinion, what aspects of growth and development in this field have surprised you And what have you observed to be barriers to advancement?
What has really surprised me about growth is that we've gone from something like 5% of American hospitals providing palliative care to nearly 80% in a 15 year period. That really surprised me because there's no joint commission requirement. There's no particularly strong payment for palliative care. So the fact that hospitals literally on mass adopted this innovation and supported it invested in because most hospital pellet appear, teams are supported by their parent organization in addition to philanthropy and building that surprised. I hope that it has something to do with how we conveyed information about palliative care hospital leadership, about how it helps improve quality measures that are publicly reported and like to payment and how it reduces unnecessary and burdensome interventions. Eso From a hospital standpoint, palliative care solves a lot of problems, and I think we were able to get that message across to the point where it is nearly the standard of practice. It certainly is for the larger hospitals hospitals with more than 300 beds who serve the great majority of patients with serious and complex illness, 94% of them are delivery palliative care, so that's a huge, stunning increase in a relatively short period of time. Um, I would say the barriers continue to be what we just talked about, which is this misconception that palliative care is the same asshole
I know in in our hospital we really try to train our physicians that if it's very clear that this patient is a good candidate for hospice and that it is aligned with their goals of care, you do not need to console the palliative care team for that, that our work is better spent elsewhere because you've already had the discussion and we can use our social work colleagues, too, get them admitted to hospice. It's an ongoing battle in all different facilities.
Well, and, you know, again, part of this is field saturation. Early on in our field, we preached, and I was one of them that whatever our colleagues need us to do, we do. We provide customer service. So what we did with the skill our colleagues by running all family meetings by managing all the opioids by essentially taking that burden away from our colleagues, and now they no longer know how, and in the meantime, we are drowning and not even beginning to scrape the surface of the need in the places where we work.
So does cap see end up focusing on trying to improve the primary palliative care skills of the majority of physicians?
Yes, and we don't call it that because if I'm talking to an oncologist and saying you need primary palliative care spills, they look at me like I'm crazy. I'm not a primary care doctor. I'm a specialist oncologist and their specialist palliative care docks propelling care. Why would I need to warn the language we use again is off putting to our colleagues. Now we talk about skills and knowledge, communication skills, symptom management skills. Identifying overwhelmed family caregivers who are going to call 911 as soon as they're surprises. Those air things that our colleagues recognized that they need. They don't recognize themselves needing palliative care skills. So we really have to be thoughtful about language. A CE you probably know. KFC has developed a pretty extensive online clinical training curriculum that is not aimed appellate appear specialists. It's aimed at all front line clinicians who take care of people with serious illness, whether dementia and stage renal disease, heart failure, COPD cancer, and we are nearly at 400,000 horse completions by about 60,000 clinicians, 83% of whom do not work in hospice. Repel a tick here. How do
you get to these physicians?
Well, that's a really good question. And it we've just spent a whole day talking about how to do that better. It critically depends on opinion leadership, both on a palliative care Tinian, the effectiveness of the leadership of the palliative care team at connecting with the program director of the internal medicine residency, the person running the Family Medicine and Internal Medicine Medical School. Kirk Ship, the chief nursing officer who has a certain number of see you credits that all her nurses have to get every year on things that contribute to hospital quality. It's human relationships that lead to behavior. Change on leveraging those human relationships is the way that uptake of the cat see courses has heard again. It's finding out what's most important to the audience that has to take action. So
I read that you received a MacArthur Foundation fellowship. I didn't realize that Can you tell us what it was like to receive that and what that fellowship funding allowed you to accomplish. It
was really weird. I was actually sitting on an airplane about to take off for somewhere, and they were starting to say, You know, don't you know, shut down your phones And there was a number that was coming in from Chicago and having grown up in Chicago, is curious. Who's calling me from Chicago? So I answered it, and I could hardly hear the person. It sounded like good news. And I said, Say that again, please. And, um, they said it again. And, you know, I was trying to catch my breath and I had to hang up on a cross country plane flight. Um, it was, you know, I'll never forget it. And I think every person who that happens too, has the same bolt from the blue experience with it. And I would say it's impact waas enormous for the field because people pay attention to who get those who gets those awards. And if, in its wisdom, the committee at the MacArthur Foundation thought that telling care was an important innovation that signaled an important shift in the U. S. Health care system will then maybe people should pay attention. So I think it really helped us with socializing the importance of melody.
So this podcast tries to focus on surgical palliative care. So I'm wondering what have you learned is the most effective messaging to engage surgeons in encouraging them to request palliative care consuls?
Well, I mean, to me, the most important message to them is clarity about We are not about talking people out of things. We are not about trying to pluck patients from the clutches of the surgeon. Um, we are about trying to make sure that the patient and the family have the best possible outcome. That may be a decision not to do surgery, and someone who, for example, is frail, cognitively impaired and could barely walk because their outcomes are likely to be poor based on all kinds of data. Not tell you care data, Um, and helping surgeons risk stratify candidates for surgery through frailty, screening, delirium screening, cognitive screening, functional screening and then for those patients who are either borderline or who would from the benefit of surgery would outweigh the risk is doing everything possible to reduce the likelihood of complications that are usually post operative and those are often that's often the period of time when the bad outcomes emerge because somebody isn't moved out of bed. Or nobody pays attention to the fact that the patient hasn't had a bowel movement in four days or nobody has noticed that the patient has an apathetic delirium. And yet those are very, very high risk events for adverse outcomes, not only life in a nursing home but also mortality.
I'm vigorously shaking my head because my experience, it is. I mean, I can count on one hand the patients who've died on the table but certainly can think of many many who have succumbed after a long hospitalization,
right? Exactly So you know, hospitals are not good places for frail, cognitively compromised older people for anything, whether it's pneumonia or dialysis or surgery, hospitals are harmful, and it's not in any way specific to surgery, but the experience of post operative recovery having gone through it myself with a mitral valve repair little less than a year ago, I now have a very healthy respect for what it's like to try to get better and how hard it is, and I am relatively young and healthy and went into it as somebody who exercised four times a week and was, you know, at a healthy body weight and well nourished, um, and cognitively intact. So thinking about going through that for people who aren't those things, it's It's not surprising that there are tremendous numbers of adverse consequences complications that no one intent that everyone hopes won't happen but are pretty predictable without super effort hovering, leaning in a lot of attention to detail. A lot of going back to the bedside multiple times a day that surgical teams can't do their no are right. You know they've got a P A on the floor, and they might have an inter, neither of whom are trained to watch for these subtle but devastating complications that occur among particularly older patients. But also people who get surgery on are also living with hypertension, coronary disease, renal insufficiency, frailty, et cetera. It takes it takes a village to present those patients.
But it really is some of those things, just the simple attention to detail. I know I probably drive my residents crazy, but it it drives me crazy when I'll round on someone at 10 in the morning and they're laying in a dark room with the shades pulled. You know, I'll say, like the shades need to come up. The lights are on in. It's daytime because here we are already setting ourselves up for delirium,
right? Exactly. And I'm or they walk in and you know the trays in front of the patient with the plastic on everything. And the patient's glasses are in the drawer and they're lying flat or halfway off the bed. And none of the doctors think it's their job.
Yep, and their teeth are across the room
about remember, it is your job. It is. You're in the room, you know, deal with it. And so that kind off recognition that the simple things are the things that make the difference and that it's all of our job to address the light in the room, positioning eyeglasses, teeth, hearing aids, access to food and drink the consequences of failure to do that do fall on the doctor as well as the patient on. We have to realize that we actually have a lot more influence on most things than perhaps we have realized.
Have you found that surgeons air completing these caps see online trainings.
I don't actually have the answer to that. We haven't cut it that way, so I don't know, but a lot of doctors are okay. How's your Because of maintenance of certification points. So I don't know if surgeons have to get M o. C points
we d'oh! And I'm actually thinking as a clerkship director, like what a nice thing to be able to incorporate into the surgical clerkship.
And they're using it in a flipped classroom method. So instead of spending a precious hour with the faculty and the students, you know, teaching about opioid conversions, post operatively or something, they take the class. I mean, they take the courses online, and then they get together and you give them cases to practice. So you're not wasting your precious time doing didactic ce right? You're actually spending time with learner's going over cases on practicing the skill that they need to acquire um, which is both more fun for the teacher and much more effective.
Do you have a sense of how many hospitals or what percentage of hospitals in the country have a cap? See membership?
Yeah, it's a bell. 1500 Okay, so quite a few and not all, but nearly all teaching hospitals and medical school affiliated hospitals are collapsing members. And a lot of places don't realize it that they have access to this. So maybe this podcast could help improve that. All you need to do is go on the cap. See website. It'll ask you to put your email address in. And as long as your email address has the name of your organization on it, like ours is Mount Sinai's Well, m s s m dot You you're in.
Well, I'll definitely put a link to that in my show. Notes. I know that you have trained at least one surgeon. Dr Berlin. Um, I'm wondering, in your opinion, what do surgeons, if anything, bring to the field of hospice and palliative medicine that other specialties may
lack? Ah, therapeutic optimism, but I think is often lacking an internal medicine. Mmm. A kind of willingness to try tempered by a desire not to do harm, which I think is a positive. I really hate the uh Oh, This person is old. Forget it. Kind of ageism and therapeutic nihilism that starts toe happen in teaching hospitals around complicated over people. Right? Um, and you don't see that as much among surgeons, which I
especially acute care surgeons, we will operate.
Obviously, that needs to be appropriate. But the willingness to try, particularly if the patient is not likely to end up in permanently in a nursing home afterwards, is really valuable on as a patient myself. I you know, I'm glad people are like that. Surgeons are like that. Um I think the understanding that it takes a team of surgeons understand that, you know, they can't operate without nurses without anesthesiologists without post acute. You know, post anesthesia carry units. Um, without nutrition support, you know, there's, ah, somewhat less of ah, of, Ah, cowboy. I can do this all myself, because surgeons are critically dependent on their colleagues in other fields of disciplines. And I appreciate that. And surgeons air tend to be really smart, you know? I appreciate that. So you know that that's a good thing in a doctor. So
you mentioned a sustainable income and not having to take an oath of poverty when you wrote your recent cap see letter? Yeah. And obviously this problem does present a barrier to recruitment in the field of palliative care. So I'm wondering, How is cap See working with insurance companies to change this? And how do you see government agencies being involved to help set a more equitable pay scale?
So I think that will happen when we move away from fee for service. And not until then, because as long as we're in fee for service, all our organizations are surviving based on doing things that are well reimbursed to people. They are unlikely to prioritize, paying well or equally well, a specialist that isn't bringing in profit. It's just a different mindset when you're working in a place that is, for example, working under a global budget like the were like Kaiser were like some states which are largely Medicare Advantage, Medicare managed care like Oregon. There's a much greater understanding that when we do lots of things to people were bankrupting everybody. If those things aren't going to benefit and there's a much greater understanding that meticulous careful hi attention. Hi. Um, cognitive service actually is better quality care people are gonna be willing to pay for, However, not the same way we're accustomed to delivering. We all trained in organizations where the front line clinicians, the doctor and, increasingly now the advance practice nurse or the P A. The billable provider, the one that can build for service is when you move into a value based environ, we need to flip that script. So if you think about a pyramid and say you were trying to manage a population of complex, seriously ill people at home, in the community or in a nursing home, you would use a lot of telemedicine because so many issues can be addressed with real access to telephone expertise would use community health workers. So we work in East Harlem, where most of the patients speak Spanish. Most of our doctors don't speak Spanish. Most of our nurses don't speaks pash. Our community health workers are from that community, and they speak Spanish, and they understand the culture and the misconceptions and some of the medical literacy challenges that the feel that the community has. So, for example, we may not realize we, the white doctor or nurse, that patients don't understand that all these Mets have to be refilled. Ah, we may not understand that they think that because the meds are expensive. They can take it twice a week instead of every day. The community health worker knows that's likely and screens for that and identifies that and can educate in the patient's language and from the patient's culture, and can then identify the barriers they can't afford. The co pay on this most, for example, so studies that have looked at community health workers in very complex community populations have found that they're incredibly effective at improving the quality of care and reducing unnecessary Edie visits and hospitalizations. Because I get to the root of the problem, which is mostly misunderstanding and so above the base of the pyramid, which is community health workers who, by the way, while they are in many ways more effective than doctors cost way less than doctors off his, then you have those community health workers work under a nurse social work diet. So if that community health worker identifies that a patient is developing a pressure ulcer, the nurse will come in. If, on the other hand, they identify that they're not refilling their meds because they cannot afford the co pays, the social worker can help figure out how to address that if that team the social work nursing diet, thinks the patient needs a new prescription, there's a nurse practitioner that they can ask for that prescription, you know, with the nurse practitioner runs into a problem that he or she can't address. There's a doctor, so there's one doctor. There's 50 community health workers. There's 10 nurse social work diet teams. There's two nurse practitioners managing a very large population, so that's the model of the future. And that's a model where people get really good care at a much lower cost than expecting. These very sick, frail, cognitively impaired, overwhelmed patients and families to calm and sit in our clinics. Wait two hours to be seen and then reverse the steps, which is how we do it now.
Thank you for that. So as we're wrapping up, I'm wondering if there are any other important insights or pearls about palliative care that you'd like to share with our audience.
Surgeons understand that human suffering on the relief of human suffering is at the root of what we do. Um, sometimes we get to cure. But most of the time we relieve, so everything that we do should contribute to that goal of relieving the burden of human suffering. And there's lots of different ways to do that. Um, ranging from listening to someone to removing a Met met that's pressing on a nerve. It's It's sort of remembering what's at the heart of the ethos of the profession, why we became doctors and nurses in the first list to help people. And we all share that.
I think, remembering that in the end, we're all on the same team. Yes, well, Diane, thank you so much. It's been such a pleasure to speak with you. And, um, I feel I've learned so much about language and certainly so many things that I can change even in my own life as I'm walking and talking around the hospital, and I just appreciate everything you've done over the past 30 plus years for this profession. It's so inspiring, and I just really appreciate who you are. Thank you. That's very kind. You're welcome. Thank you for joining us for another episode of the surgical palliative care podcast. Be sure to subscribe to stay up to date on the latest episodes toe. Learn more about the surgical palliative care community. Follow us on Twitter at Serge Pal care. If you'd like to get more involved with the surgical palliative care social media team, please reach out on Twitter for via email at surgical Palliative care at gmail dot com. Lastly, take good care of yourselves and take good care of each other.