Access to palliative care in US hospitals still not universal

Despite rapid expansion in hospital palliative care programs in the U.S., access to these programs nationwide varies across geographic regions and depends on factors such as hospital size and tax status, according to a new study published inJournal of Palliative Medicine, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The article is available free on the Journal of Palliative Medicine website until November 1, 2015.

In “The Growth of Palliative Care in U.S. Hospitals: A Status Report” , Tamara Dumanovsky, PhD, Rachel Augustin, MPH, Maggie Rogers, MPH, Katrina Lettang, Diane Meier, MD, and R. Sean Morrison, MD, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, and James J. Peters VA Medical Center, Bronx, NY, report that while 90% of hospitals across the U.S. with 300 beds or more have palliative care programs, only 56% of smaller hospitals offer these services. Geographic variation showed the highest to lowest penetration of palliative care programs in the New England region, followed by the Pacific, Mid-Atlantic, and South Central.

For-profit hospitals are less likely than not-for-profit or public hospitals to have palliative care programs. Variables associated with a greater likelihood that a hospital provides palliative care services include presence of a residency training program, links to a medical school, being operated by the Catholic Church, and having an integrated hospice program.

“This report holds both good news and bad. The good news is the inexorable improvement in access to palliative care. The bad news is that this scientifically proven best care is not available to all people in all hospitals,” says Charles F. von Gunten, MD, PhD, Editor-in-Chief ofJournal of Palliative Medicine and Clinical Professor of Medicine, Ohio University.


Journal of Palliative Medicine is the official journal of the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) and an official journal of the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association.

About the Journal

Journal of Palliative Medicine, published monthly in print and online, is an interdisciplinary journal that reports on the clinical, educational, legal, and ethical aspects of care for seriously ill and dying patients. The Journal includes coverage of the latest developments in drug and non-drug treatments for patients with life-threatening diseases including cancer, AIDS, cardiac disease, pulmonary, neurological, and respiratory conditions, and other diseases. The Journal reports on the development of palliative care programs around the United States and the world and on innovations in palliative care education. Tables of content and a sample issue can be viewed on the Journal of Palliative Medicine website.

About The Rev. Thomas C. Jackson

Ordained to the priesthood in December, 2010.
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