Access to palliative care varies widely by state

According to the Center for Advanced Palliative Care (CAPC), palliative care programs are being implemented at a rapid pace in U.S. hospitals, but wide geographic variation remains a barrier to equal access for patients and families. The CAPC 2008 “report card” shows that the nation gets an overall grade of C in access to hospital palliative care. Although half of the fifty states receive a grade of A or B, almost 40 percent get a grade of C, and more than 20 percent receive unacceptable grades of D and F. Only three states earn a grade of A.

The report report notes that approximately ninety million Americans are living with serious and life-threatening illness, and this number is expected to more than double over the next twenty–five years with the aging of the baby boomers. Yet, studies show that most people living with a serious illness experience inadequately treated symptoms; fragmented care; poor communication with their doctors; and enormous strains on their family caregivers.

The CAPC and National Palliative Care Research Center (NPCRC) report was undertaken in an effort to add to the literature on health care quality for seriously ill patients. It examines geographic variations at the state level in order to assess whether seriously ill patients throughout the United States are receiving equitable care. Specifically, we examine:

1. Patient access to palliative care services in hospitals

2. Patient access to board-certified palliative medicine physicians

3. Medical student access to clinical training in palliative medicine

4. Physician access to specialty-level training in palliative medicine

(SOURCE: Center for Advanced Palliative Care , http://capc.org, accessed October 7, 2008)