Palliative care helps patients avoid emergency room visits

Do you or a loved one have a serious illness such as cancer, heart failure, lung disease or kidney failure? If so, you may be tired of taking trips to the emergency room and unwanted hospital stays to treat pain, shortness of breath or other symptoms. Palliative care can help you stay safely at home doing the things you love surrounded by the people you love.

Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses. It focuses on providing relief from the symptoms, pain and stress of a serious illness. It will help you understand your disease and your treatment options and it will also help you, and your family, cope with the everyday challenges of living with a serious illness.

What the experts are saying

“Palliative care is an approach to care of people with serious illness that focuses on maximizing the quality of life for the patient and their family,” explains Diane Meier, MD, a world-renowned palliative care expert. Dr. Meier calls palliative care a “partnership between the patient and the clinician.”

Your palliative care team will consist of a doctor, a nurse, a social worker and others who are all specialists in palliative care. They will spend as much time as needed to help you understand your situation and address your issues. Because your palliative care specialists know exactly what you’re dealing with, they may be able to help you in their offices, in your home or over the phone without you having to go into the emergency room to get answers.

In this video, Dr. Meier discusses how palliative care gives patients control over their goals and wishes.

Patient story: David’s palliative care journey

Having this extra layer of support can make a big difference in your quality of life. Expert pain and symptom control will keep you, or your loved one, more comfortable.

David, a devoted family man, is a colorectal cancer survivor who suffered from complications as a result of his treatment. After repeated visits to the emergency room to deal with the pain, David asked for palliative care. His primary goal was to remain at home to enjoy quality time with his family. David’s palliative care team helps manage his pain but also helps him deal with stress. Thanks to his palliative care treatment, David is now able to enjoy life at home as he continues his recovery.

The evidence is clear

Studies show that palliative care patients get greater relief from the breathlessness associated with serious illnesses; they’re less likely to spend time in intensive care units; and they report greater satisfaction with care and higher spiritual well-being.

Patients also do better when they ask for palliative care early. A study conducted at the cancer center at the University of California, San Francisco, found that patients who received palliative care earlier were less likely to visit the emergency room.

Ask your doctor or social worker about palliative care services in your area and how to get them. You can also find community resources on

Why spend time in the hospital if you don’t have to? Palliative care can help.


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