Too Few Hospital Palliative Care Programs Meet Staffing Standards, According to New Study

New York, NY (September 9, 2016)

While millions of Americans live with serious illness − ranging from cancer to heart disease, dementia and others − and despite the increasing demand for palliative care services among these patients, anewly published study in the September issue of Health Affairs reports that only 25% of the 410 hospital programs analyzed met federally defined standards for having a complete palliative care team. In addition, at this staffing level, only a median of 3.4% of hospital patients were reached, of whom three-quarters were aged 65 and older

  • This is the first in-depth assessment of staffing in hospital palliative care programs based on 2012 and 2013 data from the Center to Advance Palliative Care’s National Palliative Care Registry, which has been documenting operational features of palliative care programs since 2008.
  • Furthermore, according to the Center to Advance Palliative Care’s 2015 State-by-State Report Card, there is only 1 palliative care physician for every 1200 patients who can benefit from receiving palliative care, and forecasts estimate that 18,000 additional palliative care physicians would be needed to staff current programs at recommended levels.
  • While these numbers are strikingly low, there has been growth in hospital-based palliative care programs, as well as in community settings. Over 1700 hospitals with more than 50 beds now have a palliative care team, which is 67% of hospitals in 2013 compared to 15% in 1998.

The study authors, including two from the Center to Advance Palliative Care, call for expansion of palliative care skills in pain management and communication among frontline clinicians treating seriously ill patients, incentives for medical students to pursue palliative care as a career path, and rapid and sustained efforts in financing and health systems management.

About CAPC

The Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) is a national, member-based organization dedicated to increasing the availability of quality palliative care services for people facing serious illness. CAPC provides hospitals, hospices, payers and other health care organizations with the tools, training, technical assistance and metrics needed to support the successful implementation and integration of palliative care. To learn more about CAPC, visit

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