Integrative Palliative Care Aligns with Patient-Centered Care

Integrative Palliative Care supports Patient-Centered Care by offering therapies that address all dimensions of being: body, mind, spirit and relationships. Integrative Palliative Care offers the best of both worlds: pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions are used side-by-side, providing patients and families a more comprehensive approach to care. Both Integrative Palliative Care and Patient-Centered Care encourage patients and families to advocate for care preferences, and encourage partnerships between recipients and providers.

Patient-Centered Care…

Providing care that is respectful of, and responsive to, individual patient preferences, needs and values, and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions.

(Institute of Medicine definition)

Integrative Palliative Care…

The use of conventional and complementary approaches together in providing care for people facing serious illness or end of life. It addresses the whole person as a multidimensional being – body, mind, spirit and relationships.

 (IPCI definition

Whole Person Approach to Treatment – Body, Mind, Spirit and Relationships

Western medicine has dedicated the last 300 years to the understanding of the complexities of the human body – the physical aspect of our humanity. As such, medical technology has made amazing contributions to help people survive accidents and overcome complex illness in ways that were unimaginable 50-100 years ago – from vaccines to protect from deadly diseases to organ transplants to the promise of regenerating organs via stem cells. 

Combining technical advances in medicine with evidence-based non-pharmacological therapies results in an integrative approach to Patient-Centered Care. For example, the field of Oncology is rapidly evolving into an integrative model of care where it is increasingly common that we provide chemotherapy and surgery to deal with a tumor while at the same time offering therapies such as acupuncture, massage, yoga, tai chi and music to deal with treatment side effects and support the patient’s healing and well-being. In some cases, people who may not have been able to endure the side effects of chemotherapy or surgery, have reported they were able to complete their treatment because of the support provided by integrative therapies.

One clear example of the ongoing transformation towards an integrative care model is the recent endorsement by  the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) of the Society for Integrative Oncology (SIO) evidence-based clinical practice guidelines on integrative therapies during and after breast cancer treatment.

Increased Communication Between Providers, Patients and Families on Care Preferences

Patient-centered care is the practice of caring for patients (and their families) in ways that are meaningful and valuable to the individual patient.  It includes listening to, informing and involving patients in their care.

Research has shown that the quality of the relationship between patients and health care providers is a crucial aspect on the patients’ physical, emotional and spiritual outcomes. Communication about care preferences is a key component in the patient-provider relationship. Health care providers need to engage patients and families to understand their care preferences while at the same time, need to be proficient in offering advice and resources on non-pharmacological care options.

Integrative therapies in palliative care offer a wide range of evidence-based interventions that can meet the diverse cultural and spiritual preferences of patients and their families. Involving patients and their families in the discussion of care options supports a patient-centered and relationship-centered environment that enhances patients’ well-being and builds trust and social support.

Creating Healing Environments that Support Patient-Centered Care

Research in health care design has shown that the physical environment deeply affects patient experience of care: the smell of the hospital, the natural light in the building, the comfortable environment, noise levels, and the quality of the food are all important elements of patient experience. The Center for Health Design has been a pioneer in this field and a great resource for information on the effects of architectural design on health and healing.

Example of Patient Centered Hospital Room

An Example of  a Healing Environment Design- New Stamford Hospital

Medical facilities designed based on healing environment principles focus on improving patient and family experiences as well as improving care outcomes. One of the trends in this area is to provide more single patient rooms. This offers patients more privacy, better rest and greater opportunities for family visits which directly impact patient health and well-being. In addition, single patient rooms have been shown to decrease hospital infection rates.

One of the core concepts behind patient-centered care is the need for whole person care: addressing body, mind, soul and relationships’ needs. At the Integrative Palliative Care Institute, our mission is to advance this framework by providing evidence-based education and resources to support awareness and use of Integrative therapies in Palliative Care.  

Learn more here