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Posted: October 07, 2008

Most States Lag in Palliative Care; Where Does Your State Rank?

Palliative care, which focuses on improving the quality of life for the most serious and often terminally ill, has grown in popularity and acceptance in recent years, but a new report card ranking care quality across the United States gives most states low marks.

In a survey using data from the American Hospital Association and other sources, each state was graded on the percentage of hospitals with palliative care programs that were set up appropriately to meet the needs of seriously ill patients. The results were eye-opening: only Vermont, Montana and New Hampshire received an “A” grade, while failing grades were issued to Oklahoma, Alabama and Mississippi. In general, most southern states ranked poorly.

When all states were ranked and averaged, the United States as a whole merited only a “C” grade in the survey.

The report card, which was published in the Journal of Palliative Care, was created by Dr. R. Sean Morrison, a professor of geriatrics and palliative care at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and director of the National Palliative Care Research Center, both in New York City. 

In addition to the state rankings, Morrison’s research also showed that even within individual states, there is a wide range of palliative care available, depending on hospital size, location and profit motive. Overall, more than half (52.8%) of all US hospitals with more than 50 beds have palliative care programs, but programs were found in only 20.3% of for-profit hospitals, 40.9% of publicly-funded hospitals and 28.8% of hospitals that are sole providers of medical care in a community, the study found.

An estimated 90 million Americans are living with conditions such as cancer, heart disease, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease who can benefit from palliative care programs, according to the medical journal report.

Palliative care concentrates on relieving a seriously ill patient’s pain and other symptoms. It is not the same as hospice care, which focuses solely on terminally ill patients who are no longer pursuing curative or life-prolonging treatment.

A complete state-by-state report card can be found by clicking here.

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