Improving quality of life for patients and their families is a top priority for ACS CAN’s advocacy agenda, and advancing policies that expand access to palliative care is an essential component of our work to support cancer patients around the country.
Palliative Care: Is Your State Making the Grade?
Since I've been at ACS CAN, we've made significant progress in educating lawmakers, patients and the public about the benefits of palliative care. This specialized medical care that focuses on care coordination and relief from pain, stress and other symptoms of treatment for a life-threatening disease such as cancer can have tremendous benefits for patients and families facing a serious illness. However, awareness of palliative care is only as beneficial as the palliative care services that are available to patients in their communities.
Large hospitals tend to be the major providers of palliative care services, but just how many hospitals are meeting this need? That's what the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) and the National Palliative Care Research Center (NPCRC) set out to discover in their 2015 State-by-State Report Card on Access to Palliative Care in Our Nation's Hospitals released today. Using state grades, the report analyzes whether seriously ill patients in the U.S. have equitable access to palliative care services in hospitals, and identifies the areas where persistent gaps remain.
Overall, the report found that 67 percent of U.S. hospitals with 50 or more beds report having palliative care teams, which is up from 63 percent in 2011. When you break it down further, 17 percent of states received an "A grade" or more than 80 percent of the state's hospitals providing a palliative care team, which is a significant increase from 3 percent in 2008 (the first year of this report). And, for the first time, no state received an "F grade" this year. Curious what grade your state received?
Click here for more detail on each state.
One of the goals of the state-by-state report card is to help lawmakers increase the availability of palliative care for the millions of seriously ill Americans in the U.S. who could benefit from an extra layer of support throughout treatment, survivorship and onward. To that end, ACS CAN supports the "Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA)" (H.R. 3119) introduced in July by Reps. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Tom Reed (R-NY). The PCHETA bill would facilitate and expand federal research into palliative care; support training for nurses, nurse practitioners and other allied health professionals to effectively practice palliative care; and establish a national palliative care public education and awareness campaign. This focus on research, training and awareness of palliative care would go a long way to increase access to this specialized medical care in the states.
Our top volunteers from every state were just in Washington, D.C. this week and they met with their lawmakers about this important legislation. While we only have preliminary results from Lobby Day at this point, I'm confident that in the weeks following these meetings we'll see a surge in bipartisan support for the PCHETA bill.