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The New Face of Palliative Care

Many physicians and patients have the misconception that palliative care services are only appropriate for end-of-life care. However, the new Supportive Care Clinic on North Kansas City Hospital’s campus provides expert symptom management, care and support for people in all stages of illness and for conditions that are acute as well as chronic. 

The Supportive Care Clinic is run by James Stoddard, DO, Meritas Health North Kansas City, and Britny Sutulovich, Registered Nurse Practitioner. Dr. Stoddard is an internal medicine physician who specializes, and is board certified, in palliative care. Patients referred to the clinic are treated for any debilitating symptoms caused by illnesses like cancer, lung disease, congestive heart failure, renal failure or complex pain syndromes.

The clinic’s staff works to reduce symptoms and manage medications, so patients can focus on battling their primary illness and get back to an acceptable quality of life. The clinic treats adults of every age suffering from a variety of illnesses and conditions. There are few places in the metropolitan area that specialize in working with this patient population.

While patients continue to receive aggressive treatment for their primary illness, the clinic’s job is to control symptoms like:

Supportive Care Clinic

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  • Pain
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Weight Loss

“These patients are difficult to treat; they have complex medical histories,” Dr. Stoddard says. “They tend to suffer from a variety of symptoms that can be hard to control. We partner with their primary care providers to help them find relief.”

Supportive Care

Very few physicians receive advanced training in understanding the myriad of medications these patients take. The patients have symptoms that are caused by their condition but are often made worse by some of the medication interactions.

Treatment at the Supportive Care Clinic begins with a full assessment. The staff evaluates the underlying cause of the symptoms and reviews the treatments the patients have received. Information from referring physicians is critical.

After a treatment plan is developed at the Supportive Care Clinic, Dr. Stoddard’s staff provides the referring physician a progress note that includes the assessment and recommended medications/treatments.

“The attending physician is always in the loop because they take part in the process,” Dr. Stoddard says. “If a patient self-refers, we always get back to an attending physician, so he or she will know we have seen the patient and what we recommend.”

Improving Health

An ongoing relationship is created between the patient and the clinic for follow-up assessments, adjustments or medication changes that might be necessary.  The specialists at the clinic work to find the right combination of medications and/or other therapeutic modalities that may include epidural blocks, physical therapy or acupuncture.

The goal of treatment is to improve patients’ performance status, which is how well they are able to manage their self-care and improve their quality of life. If conditions like pain, fatigue and depression are better managed, treatment of their underlying disease can be better managed as well.

“If a patient’s symptoms aren’t well managed and they are homebound, they tend to miss needed doctor visits and treatments like chemotherapy,” Dr. Stoddard says. “We are improving patients’ quality of life and performance status. As a result, these patients have a higher quality of life and live longer.”

Patients can be referred to the clinic by primary care providers, emergency departments, specialists and psychologists. Patients may also make their own appointments with the clinic.

James Stoddard, DO

StoddardAfter completing medical school at the Kansas City College of Osteopathic Medicine, Dr. Stoddard completed his residency in internal medicine at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Dr. Stoddard is board certified in internal medicine, geriatric medicine and hospice and palliative care. For over a decade, he also served on the board of the Center for Practical Bioethics.  Dr. Stoddard is nationally known for his work and has presented on topics including neuropathic pain, delirium, non-pain symptoms, the practical use of opioids, and decision making regarding artificial hydration and nutrition. 

To learn more, call 816-421-4240.