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J Palliat Med. 2001 Fall;4(3):315-24.

How prevalent are hospital-based palliative care programs? Status report and future directions.

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  • 1Hertzberg Palliative Care Institute, Brookdale Department of Geriatrics and Adult Development, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York, USA.


In the United States, the majority of deaths occur in the hospital but the dying process there is at best unsatisfactory and more likely inadequate for both patients and caregivers. The development of hospital-based palliative care programs (HBPCPs) can vastly improve inpatient end-of-life care. This study is the first to examine the prevalence and characteristics of HBPCPs in the United States, thus providing a snapshot of the characteristics of these HBPCPs. It also serves as a baseline and benchmark against which future development and patterns of HBPCPs can be compared. Phase 1: Data were obtained from the American Hospital Association (AHA) 1998 Annual Survey, on the existence of end-of-life care (EOLC) and pain management (PM) services in U.S. hospitals. Phase 2: A focused survey further assessed programs in Phase 1 and was sent to all registered hospitals that responded affirmatively to the AHA survey questions as having either a PM service, an EOLC service, or both. In phase 1, 1,751 (36%) hospitals reported having a PM service and 719 (15%) had an EOLC service, for a total of 2,015 unique hospitals that had one or both. For Phase 2, 1,120 of 2,015 responded (56%). Of these, 337 (30%) hospitals reported having an HBPCP, and another 228 (20.4%) had plans to establish one. HBPCPs are most commonly structured as inpatient consultation service and hospital-based hospice. They tend to be based in oncology, general medicine, and geriatrics. We also assessed reasons for consultation, patient characteristics, and future development needs. These findings can help guide future funding, educational, and programming efforts in hospital-based palliative care.

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