Talking about death or dying is an uncomfortable topic for many of us. Hospitals and health systems provide life-saving treatments and care for people as they recover from illness or injury. Just as important, health care organizations are transforming end-of-life care to better care for people with serious and life-limiting illness and their loved ones.

Good palliative and end-of-life care is simply better care. It means knowing what people want and honoring their wishes. It strengthens communities with new knowledge about advance care planning, educational opportunities for caregivers and direct services that provide comfort and compassion for patients and families.

Every year, the AHA presents the Circle of Life Award to up to three palliative and end-of-life care programs that demonstrate effective, patient-centered, timely, safe, efficient and equitable care to patients with serious illness. The award-winning programs — at hospices, hospitals, health systems, long-term care facilities and community providers — are recognized for using innovative approaches to meet critical needs and serving as sustainable, replicable models.

The 2023 application period is open now until May 31, and this year’s process has been streamlined. I encourage you to visit AHA.org to find out more.

You also can learn more about the outstanding programs of past Circle of Life Award honorees, all of which are offering innovative palliative and/or or end-of-life care and measuring and evaluating the impact of their work on patients, family and their communities.

Caring Circle of Lakeland in St. Joseph, Michigan, and Choices and Champions of Novant Health in Winston-Salam, North Carolina, are the most recent Circle of Life Award winners. Both organizations offer a wide range of services that address physical, psychosocial, spiritual and cultural needs throughout a patient’s disease trajectory. Their teams prioritize conversations about a person’s values and wishes for care and treatment, including initiating conversations when people are healthy. The organizations have strengthened and expanded their services to provide a “quality-of-life continuum,” as one leader described.

Because of the work of these health care organizations, better treatments and protocols are available to people during a challenging time of their life. These organizations are inspiring examples for our field.

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