Palliative care access varies widely

Although more than half of the 50-bed or larger hospitals in the United States offer palliative care services to ease pain and suffering for seriously ill patients and their families, the availability of these services varies widely across geographic regions, according to a recent study.1

Whereas in 2000, only a few hospitals in the United States provided palliative care services, this report documents a steady overall increase in adoption of palliative care, with 52.8% of hospitals surveyed offering services aimed at alleviating pain and suffering. The number of large hospitals (more than 249 beds) with palliative care programs has increased to 72.2%, while fewer small hospitals (fewer than 50 beds) reported offering those services. Growth in palliative care has occurred primarily in not-for-profit hospitals and has been most notable in the midwestern and western regions of the United States.

"This paper documents the success and applicability of this new field of medicine in American health care," says Charles F. von Gunten, MD, PhD, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Palliative Medicine and provost, Institute for Palliative Medicine at San Diego Hospice. "I hope it leads to the patient expectation that the expert relief of suffering will be as routine in hospitals as cardiology or surgery."


1. Goldsmith B, Dietrich J, Du Q, et al. Variability in access to hospital palliative care in the United States. J Palliative Med 2008; 11:953-1,060.