Diane E. Meier, MD, FACP
Director, Center to Advance Palliative Care
R. Sean Morrison, MD
Director, National Palliative Care Research Center
Palliative care (pronounced pal-lee-uh-tiv) is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses. It is focused on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, and stresses of a serious illness—whatever the diagnosis. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family.
Palliative care is provided by a team of doctors, nurses, and other specialists who work together with a patient's other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness and can be provided along with curative treatment.
Palliative care is appropriate for anyone suffering a serious, chronic or life-threatening illness (e.g., cancer, cardiac disease, respiratory disease, kidney failure, Alzheimer′s, AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and more). You can receive palliative care at any age at any stage of an illness.
Palliative care is treated in the same way as medical services (e.g. cardiology). Most insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, cover all or part of palliative care.
Palliative care is primarily provided in the hospital where patients can ask their doctor for a referral to the palliative care team. The team is composed of palliative care doctors, nurses and social workers. Depending on the hospital, teams may also include other disciplines such as pharmacy.
No. Palliative care teams are consultants and work along with the primary doctor.
The goal of the state-by-state report card is to determine whether seriously ill patients throughout the United States are receiving equitable care.
This issue is critical. There are approximately 90 million Americans living with serious and life-threatening illness, and this number is expected to more than double over the next 25 years with the aging of the baby boomers. Most seriously ill people will spend time in the hospital over the course of their illness.
The report card measures the extent to which seriously ill patients and their families have access to palliative care teams in hospitals. Specifically, it examines variations at the state and district levels in order to assess whether people facing seriously illness throughout the United States are receiving equitable care. Specifically, the report card examines:
Grades are based upon the percentage, per individual state, of palliative care teams in hospitals with 50 or more beds. Hospitals with 50 or more beds are the primary focus of the report card since smaller hospitals than this are unlikely to be able to support a full interdisciplinary palliative care team.
This national and state-by-state report presents the most accurate estimates to date of the prevalence of hospital palliative care programs in the United States.
The study was conducted by the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) and the National Palliative Care Research Center (NPCRC). The research team was led by R. Sean Morrison, MD, director of the National Palliative Care Research Center. Data was obtained from the AHA Annual Survey Database™ for fiscal year 2009 and the National Palliative Care Registry™.
The key findings from the study will be published in the October 2011 issue of Journal of Palliative Medicine. The entire report can be found at www.capc.org/reportcard .
Encourage hospitals within your state that do not have a palliative care team to implement one. Visit www.capc.org for help with tools, training and technical assistance.
Palliative care teams provide an organized, highly structured system for delivering care in the hospital. By delivering highly-effective, rigorously coordinated care, palliative care teams have a direct impact on cost reduction through:
The patient population driving runaway medical spending is the target population for palliative care: