Growth of Palliative Care in the US is rapid, but gaps remain. According to the latest report, America’s Care of Serious Illness: 2019 State-by-State Report Card on Access to Palliative Care in Our Nation’s Hospitals, access to palliative care depends more on accidents of geography than it does upon the needs of patients. Twenty-one states get an A, including New Hampshire.
Palliative care is specialized care, provided by a specially-trained team, for people living with a serious illness such as cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, or dementia.
According to the report, conducted by the Center to Advance Palliative Care and National Palliative Care Research Center, the U.S. shows continued growth in the overall number of hospital palliative care teams: 72 percent of U.S. hospitals with fifty or more beds report a palliative care team. These hospitals currently serve 87 percent of all hospitalized patients in the U.S.
Key findings from the report include:
- Three quarters of states now have a grade of A or B. The number of states with A grades (defined as more than 80 percent of the state's hospitals reporting a palliative care team) increased to 21, up from 17 in 2015, and 3 in 2008.
- Four states (Delaware, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont) show palliative care teams in all of their hospitals with fifty or more beds.
- Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Wyoming were the lowest-performing states, with fewer than 40 percent of hospitals reporting palliative care teams.
- Large nonprofit hospitals in urban centers remain the most likely to provide access to a palliative care team.
- For-profit hospitals of any size are less likely to provide palliative care than nonprofit hospitals.
- Ninety percent of hospitals with palliative care are in urban areas.
- Only 17 percent of rural hospitals with fifty or more beds report palliative care programs.
"As is true for many aspects of health care, geography is destiny. Where you live determines your access to the best quality of life and highest quality of care during a serious illness," says Diane E. Meier, MD, director of the Center to Advance Palliative Care and co-author of the study. "The aging of the baby boomer generation is contributing to a growing population of patients in need who live for years with serious and chronic illness. The need to improve the quality of their health care is therefore urgent."
"High quality palliative care has been shown to improve patient and family quality of life, improve patients' and families' healthcare experiences, and in certain diseases, prolong life. Palliative care has been shown to improve hospital efficiency and reduce unnecessary spending," says R. Sean Morrison, MD, director of the National Palliative Care Research Center and coauthor of the study.