Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed into law legislation to expand awareness and utilization of palliative care throughout the state. Kentucky Senate Bill 65 will establish a Palliative Care Interdisciplinary Advisory Council as well as a Professional Information and Education Program by July 2020.
“I’m thrilled that SB 65 has finally passed,” the bill’s sponsor, State Sen. Julie Raque Adams, told Hospice News. “It took three sessions in order to make palliative care a reality in Kentucky. The passage of SB 65 is a critical step in moving information and services to those Kentuckians in need.”
Hospice and palliative care providers nationwide have long worked to increase public awareness and understanding of their services. Misconceptions about these types of care have been a significant barrier to greater utilization.The Centers to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) estimates that 70 percent of people in the United States are “not at all knowledgeable” about palliative care.
A March 2018 study in the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care found that community-dwelling adults had a low level of awareness of hospice and palliative care and that misinformation was common, concluding that education initiatives were needed to raise awareness and reduce misconceptions about these services.
“Currently many patients and their families do not know about palliative care and how it could benefit them,” said Kristy Young, Kentucky government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “This bill will increase the demand for a system of care that has proven quality of life outcomes.”
Kentucky is the 25th state to pass legislation to boost public awareness of palliative care. West Virginia passed a law in March 2018 to create a palliative care advisory coalition to improve patient access and promote palliative care training for health care providers, as did Montana in April 2017.
Studies have found that palliative care saves health plans, health systems, and accountable care organizations close to $12,000 per person enrolled, as well as reducing hospital readmissions, emergency department visits, and hospice lengths of stay.
Increasing public awareness can lead more patients to pursue palliative care. According to the CAPC, 92 percent of people who have a good understanding of palliative care say they would seek out this type of care for themselves or a family member.
“Palliative care has been repeatedly shown to improve the quality of life for people living with serious illness and their families,” Liz Fowler, CEO of Kentucky-based hospice provider Bluegrass Care Navigators, told Hospice News. “Bluegrass Care Navigators applauds efforts to advance awareness of palliative care and increase access to this critically important type of health care.“