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Erie County Medical Center Advances Palliative Care Program

There's well-documented disparity in healthcare outcomes among minority groups, and this disparity extends to end-of-life planning, activities, and access to resources. Created in 2014, Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) Corporation's "Your Voice, Your Values" Conversation Project is part of ECMC's palliative care program, which bridges the continuum of conversation to end-of-life care. Since inception, the project has engaged nearly 4,000 individuals.

ECMC's palliative care outreach team consists of a dedicated physician, clergy, and Registered Nurse who are specially trained in the discipline of advance care education and planning. The outreach team also includes community residents who reflect the diverse population surrounding ECMC. Their inclusion ensures community engagement that is respectful, culturally sensitive, and avoids stereotyping. The non-clinical team members serve as "connectors" in that they link individuals to healthcare services in a manner that's compassionate and respectful of each individual by understanding the culture, beliefs, and values that matter most, resulting in significant measurable changes.

Surveys that measure the impact and effectiveness of the team challenge the established belief that communities are not willing to engage in these conversations. In fact, 67% of surveyed individuals report that since learning about the "Your Voice, Your Values" project, respondents had at least one conversation with their loved ones regarding their wishes for medical care in the event they are unable to communicate at the time of significant injury or life-limiting illness. Also, 20% of survey respondents reported that they completed an Advance Directive in addition to having at least one meaningful conversation with their loved ones.