Wednesday 24 September 2014, 17:47 | By

In the news September 2014 – Early palliative care reduces hospitalisations

CSL In The News

While August is known to many as the ‘silly season’, we still found plenty of interesting articles and blog posts relating to the creative use of palliative care, creative therapies and digital technologies in various health-related spheres. Here’s a roundup of a few of the reports we tweeted about. For more updates, follow us on Twitter here.

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EARLY PALLIATIVE CARE REDUCES HOSPITALISATIONS AND DEATHS
A recent study by researchers at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Centre shows that early palliative care can improve wellbeing and results in fewer hospitalisations and deaths. Specifically, early palliative care can help by “detecting and managing patients’ pain and depression, improving patients’ access to psychological services, introducing such services to patients’ homes, and helping patients avoid emergency department visits.”

David Hui, M.D., oncologist at MD Anderson Cancer Centre and one of the study’s authors writes for Asbestos.com and explains that while the benefits were obvious, there are three main reasons why palliative care isn’t being utilised fully by those who need it most: lack of availability; misunderstanding among doctors; and stigma, whereby palliative care is being avoided as it might indicate someone ‘giving up’ on their battle against the life threatening condition they have.

“People have this idea that palliative care is just about end-of-life issues, but it’s not. It’s about symptom management, about facilitating communications and about helping you make decisions about your care,” Hui said. “It’s not about giving up.”

News of this study comes in the same month the BBC reported that minority groups in Wales are missing out on palliative care, possibly due to language and cultural barriers. Off the back of a report by Marie Curie Cancer Care, the article explains how GPs are often reluctant to suggest hospices for people from ethnic minority groups and a “common misconception that people from other cultures care for sick and elderly relatives at home instead of seeking outside help.”

These two articles highlight the need for greater understanding of palliation and how to introduce it, which we at CSL welcome. There was some other encouraging news in the palliative care realm too, as a new app created by Healthcare Innovation Exchange (HELIX) has been launched which includes information and guidance on end-of-life care for health professionals, as reported by eHospice.com. HELIX Clinical Lead, Dr Dominic King, NIHR Clinical Lecturer at the Department of Surgery & Cancer Imperial College London, said: “In keeping with an increasing number of clinical colleagues my smartphone is the primary route through which I access information and support to make the best decisions for my patients. The End of Life Guidance app is a great example of how apps can deliver up-to-date information when you most need it.”

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THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF VIEWING AND CREATING ART
While we often report on the health benefits of participating in creative therapies, we recently drew your attention to a Wall Street Journal article which outlines how hospitals in the US value the benefits of viewing art and are investing in carefully chosen artwork to help reduce stress, pain and anxiety amongst patients and their families.

According to the article, people are motivated to get out of their hospital beds to view the artworks, with people diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety disorders reporting the most significant improvements in their moods.

Back on the side of participation now, we were also interested in an ABC report explaining how art therapy workshops are helping people with mental health issues in Minnesota, US. “It’s a very encouraging environment,” said Robin Getsug, the art therapist who leads the Bridgeview Community Support Programme. “Most people get in the zone of their art so they forget about some of the problems and the diagnosis.”

Char Gile, a participant who has lived with anxiety and depression issues for five years celebrated the impact of the programme on her own state of mind. “I used to have really bad panic attacks that would last for two hours, and I don’t anymore,” Char said. “Art calms me down and anchors me.”

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THE DIFFERENCE MHEALTH CAN MAKE TO HEALTHCARE
As the mHealth market grows and develops, we are keeping tabs on how it affects healthcare delivery. New apps are being launched every week, but what difference can they really make? mHealth News wrote a succinct and astute insight piece on five ways in which mHealth can change healthcare, including real-time surveys, patient education tools, video consultations, remote patient monitoring and apps being used in clinical trials.

While these avenues are already being accessed by apps that are specifically designed for health purposes, it was interesting to read another mHealth News article that outlined how one of most talked-about and hyped apps of the year – Yo – could also be used in the healthcare realm. Yo, which is an alert-based notification app mostly used in social situations, could be used to help manage doctor appointments too.

And aside from the clinical end of the spectrum, we were also interested to see how relationships can benefit from mHealth advances. According to mHealthWatch, Swinton Counselling has a website that provides relationship advice and support alongside blog posts about issues that often arise in relationships.  While we agree with mHealthWatch that the website might not provide a substitute for relationship counselling, it’s still encouraging to see that people who may not feel comfortable with discussing certain issues face-to-face with a professional, can access sound advice online.

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