Data on the availability of community-based palliative care services is limited, but new numbers from the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) show that at least half of the in-home providers of those services in the United States are hospices.
CAPC recently completed a three-year project to quantify the prevalence of community-based palliative care providers nationwide. The organization recently reported on its research, based on an online survey to which 890 palliative care providers responded.
While the nation’s health care community has not reached consensus on a standardized definition for palliative care, CAPC applied the following for the purposes of its study.
“Palliative care is a team approach to improving quality of life for people living with serious illness. It focuses on providing relief from the pain, symptoms, and stress of a serious illness for both the patient and family. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness and can be provided along with curative treatment,” the report indicated. “At a minimum, a palliative care program should provide: expert pain and symptom management; effective communication with patients and families to support autonomous decision making for medical treatment and care priorities; and screening and support for the emotional, social, and spiritual needs of patients and their families.”
Community settings include office practices, medical clinics, long-term care facilities, and patients’ homes, according to CAPC.
To identify qualifying programs, CAPC did outreach to hospices, hospitals, home health care providers, long term care facilities physician groups and other health care stakeholders, using email marketing, direct mail campaigns, advertising, social media, blog posts and a fax campaign.
CAPC acknowledged that even in light of these efforts, the results likely underrepresent the true number of community-based programs, but the data do provide insights into how patients access palliative care outside the walls of hospitals.
“Despite these extensive efforts to publicize the project and garner responses, it is likely that we were unable to identify all community programs,” the report said. “Thus, this report underrepresents the true number of palliative care programs present in the community and describes only the responding programs’ self-reported availability and characteristics.”
The report also found that hospitals and hospices are equally likely to operate community-based palliative care programs. Combined, they represent two-thirds of all community-based providers, with the final third includes home health agencies, long-term care facilities, and office practices or clinics.