The Hospice Medical Director: Connecting Care

Dr. Jean Jaoude, UnityPoint Hospice Medical Director

Meet Dr. Jean Jaoude – UnityPoint Hospice Medical Director

The defining feature of hospice care is the interdisciplinary care team, which consists of nurses, aides, chaplains, social workers, pharmacists, therapists, bereavement counselors and volunteers. There is one other member of the team who plays a very important role in ensuring compassionate, quality care – the hospice medical director.

The medical director is responsible for developing, maintaining and monitoring the care provided by hospice. Working with a patient's primary care provider, along with the hospice care team, the medical director ensures that the patient's medical care needs are met, while respecting their individual wishes and requests.

Providing Clinical and Administrative Leadership

One of UnityPoint Hospice's medical directors is Dr. Jean Jaoude, who provides clinical leadership to the UnityPoint Hospice team in Waterloo. Dr. Jaoude facilitates discussion between all the members of a patient's hospice team; every week, he leads team meetings in which action plans are developed and managed for each patient. His role is to provide both clinical expertise and administrative leadership, which allows him to guide the team's decision-making.

For example, Dr. Jaoude's extensive training in hospice-specific medications allows him to work with the team pharmacist on medication management. "Narcotics like morphine are often used in hospice care," Jaoude says, "But they can have major side effects if not used appropriately." Dr. Jaoude received his undergraduate degree and Doctor of Medicine from Lebanese University. He is accredited by the American Board of Family Medicine, with Certificates of Added Qualifications in Geriatric Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine. 

Providing The Right Care

Along with his specialized medical education, Dr. Jaoude is a certified medical director under the American Medical Director Association. This certification allowed him to understand the many responsibilities of medical directorship. "An important part of hospice is providing support to the patients' families," Dr. Jaoude explains. "Our social workers are integrated with the rest of the team, so we are able to discuss how family dynamics are related to a patient's health. Because our team works together to coordinate each patient's care, we can see how one factor of a patient's experience in hospice affects everything else," Jaoude says.

For example, a patient may go through a period where they are experiencing more discomfort than normal, which can cause not only physical stress, but also emotional. When the team meets to discuss the many elements of the patient's situation, they can all learn from each other. Clinical staff can weigh in on the possibility of increasing medication to manage pain. A chaplain can discuss how spiritual attention could aid the patient in his or her final days. Social workers can provide input on the family's support of the patient and the impact that can have. Music or massage therapy may be added into their care. As the medical director, Dr. Jaoude oversees this conversation and leads the resulting planning process.

Coordinating Your Care for Comfort and Support

The medical director's role doesn't end with leading meetings. It is often important to hospice patients that throughout the hospice journey, they can keep receiving care and visits from their regular doctor. Dr. Jaoude states, "It's essential for our patients to understand that part of my role is to coordinate care with their primary care provider and keep them informed of their patient's condition while in hospice." He works with many primary care providers and hospitalists, including them in hospice team discussions so they can continue to care for their patients, despite the fact that the type or location of care may have changed.

Hospice isn't a place – it's a philosophy of care designed to provide comfort and support to patients and their families throughout life-limiting illnesses. As a UnityPoint Hospice medical director, Dr. Jaoude develops and monitors standards of care, ensuring that all patients receive the best care possible so they can find comfort,