Working Together Makes End of Life Conversations Easier to Have

“Healthcare is complicated. We see our role as taking the complicated issues and problems facing our communities and convening people to solve problems that keep the interest of the patients front and center”

We had an opportunity to check-in with Ann-Marie Alameddin of Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association. At AzHHA Ann-Marie is President and Chief Executive Officer bringing voices from across the Arizona healthcare ecosystem to the table to solve the problems facing patients and healthcare organizations across the state.

“Within hospitals and healthcare associations such as ours here in Arizona, the goal is to bring all the parties to the table to foster a conversation that puts patients first and elevates our ability to serve our communities.” One area that Alameddin is particularly interested in convening voices around is thoughtful end of life conversations. “End of life is understandably a difficult topic for us to address, in so many ways it’s what we’re working tirelessly to avoid; but it is the reality of how each of our stories will end. I believe we’re doing a disservice by leaving it unaddressed.”

In our conversation Ann-Marie shared several ways we can normalize and bring greater care to these end of life conversations:

  1. First, organizationally look at how our own advanced care directives are structured and supported. For many organizations, having advanced care directives are not required. By modeling and normalizing the conversation within our own teams in hospitals and health systems we’re taking a big step forward.
  2. Second, having these conversations with our own loved ones. Being a caregiver is an incredibly difficult role and doing so without the expressed directions from our loved ones creates an even greater burden. Seeing the impact of these care directives personally can help empower hospital employees and staff to have a similar conversation with patients.
  3. Lastly, have compassionate and supportive discussions around prognosis and end of life directives with patients. Frequently we’ll hear from physicians and medical professionals that having this conversation can feel like defeat. While this is understandable, having these important conversations is imperative when we think about strong, supported, whole-life patient care.

In many ways this focus of work is full circle for Alameddin, who studied bioethics. “We are all patients at some point in our life and we are caregivers and loved ones to family and friends at the end of their life. We have a moral and ethical obligation as healthcare administrators and influencers to create a healthcare system that supports medically appropriate and compassionate care, and tailored to the patient wishes.” shared Alameddin. To that end AzHHA will be learning from similar programs in other states for the most impactful ways to convene and grow consensus that becomes actionable within hospitals in Arizona.