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GeriPal - A Geriatrics and Palliative Care Podcast

Jun 9, 2022

In the US, geriatrics “grew up” as an academic profession with a heavy research base.  This was in part due to the tremendous support of the National Institute on Aging.  Clinical growth of geriatrics programs has lagged academic research, despite the rapid aging of the population. 

Palliative care, in contrast, saw explosive growth in US hospitals.  In contrast to geriatrics, the evidence base for palliative care lagged clinical growth, in part because palliative care has no centralized “home” at the National Institutes of Health.  The National Palliative Care Research Center (NPCRC)and Palliative Care Research Cooperative (PCRC)were founded in part to meet this need.

Today we interview Kate Courtright, a critical care and palliative care physician-researcher who conducts trials of palliative care.  Kate’s journey is in a way emblematic of the lack of centralized funding for palliative care: she’s received funding from three separate NIH institutes, the NPCRC, and been involved in the PCRC.

We talk with Kate about how despite how far we’ve come in palliative care research, we still don’t have answers to some fundamental questions, such as:

  • Who should get specialized palliative care?  Should eligibility and access be determined by clinician referral? By diagnosis?  By prognosis?  By need?
  • If we move away from clinician referrals as the means by which people get access, how do we keep the clinicians engaged, and not enraged?  Can nudges help?  (see our prior podcast on Nudges with Jenny Blumenthal-Barby and Scott Halpern)
  • When should people get palliative care?  What does “early” really mean?  We can’t possibly meet the needs of all people with newly diagnosed serious illness
  • How do we move from efficacy (works in highly controlled settings) from effectiveness (works in real world settings?  What’s the role of implementation science? What is a pragmatic trial?
  • What outcomes should we measure?

We cover a lot of ground!  Working on a mystery.  Going wherever it leads.  Runnin down a dream…