KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Futile Medical Care Crowds Out Other Patients

Also, one insurer and one business have end-of-life conversations with patients by phone.

WBUR: When Medical Care Is Futile, Other Patients Pay The Hidden Price
Every day in intensive care units across the country, patients get aggressive, expensive treatment their caregivers know is not going to save their lives or make them better. California researchers now report this so-called “futile” care has a hidden price: It’s crowding out other patients who could otherwise survive, recover and get back to living their lives. Their study, in Critical Care Medicine, shows that patients who could benefit from intensive care in UCLA’s teaching hospital are having to wait hours and even days in the emergency room and in nearby community hospitals because ICU beds are occupied by patients receiving futile care. Some patients die waiting (Knox, 8/26).

Kaiser Health News: Operator? Business, Insurer Take On End-of-Life Issues By Phone
Imagine you're at home. Maybe that's in Florida, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, wherever. You have cancer. You just had another round of chemo, and the phone rings. "My name is Kate. I'm a health care counselor," the gentle voice says from her cubicle in Cherry Hill, N.J.. This is no telemarketing call … it’s about the end of your life. Kate Schleicher, 27, is a licensed clinical social worker, who knows almost as little about you as you do about her. Except she’s got your phone number, your insurance provider and that you are pretty sick (Gordon, 8/27).

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