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What's Up Magazine

Palliative Care – A Report Card

Oct 22, 2013 02:54PM ● By Cate Reynolds
October 12 was World Hospice and Palliative Care Day, so it seemed fitting to discuss the state of palliative care in our state. First, however, it might be helpful to explain exactly how palliative care differs from hospice care (something many of us are familiar with). Simply put, palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious illness. The Mayo Clinic calls it care that “can provide pain and symptom relief, and coordinated, holistic care for people with serious illness.”

Palliative care is not the same as hospice care—though the two often go hand-in-glove. Hospice is defined by the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) as “palliative care focused on terminally ill patients who are no longer seeking curative or life-prolonging treatment and who are expected to live for about six months or less.” A syllogism might help illustrate the point: All hospice care is palliative care; palliative care also treats non-life-threatening conditions; therefore not all palliative care is hospice care.

And not all palliative care is equally dispensed or available in the U.S., according to a 2011 study conducted by CAPC and the National Palliative Care Research Center (NPCRC). The report’s goal was the issuance of a state-by state report card to determine whether seriously ill patients throughout the United Sates have access to equitable care—a critical issue since, according to the CAPC and the NPCRC, approximately 90 million Americans are living with serious and life-threatening illness. They expect that number to double in the next 25 years with the aging of the baby boomer generation.

Enough suspense: Maryland received a report card grade of “A.” Eight states were considered “Top Performers,” where 83 percent or above of the hospitals in the state offered palliative programs. Maryland was among that Top Performers’ group. (Ninety percent of our state’s hospitals qualified.)

To add to the reassuring news, all of the major hospitals in our readership area were singled out as palliative care providers: Anne Arundel Medical Center, Baltimore Washington Medical Center, Dorchester General Hospital and Memorial Hospital at Easton.