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More Hospitals Offer Palliative Care Programs

But researchers find that availability varies by region and size of hospital

FRIDAY, Dec. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Palliative care programs are a rapidly growing trend in U.S. hospitals, and widely regarded as an improvement in the care of advanced, chronic illness, according to a study published Dec. 12 in the Journal of Palliative Medicine.

R. Sean Morrison, M.D., of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, and colleagues analyzed data from the American Hospital Association Annual Surveys, which included data from 2000-2003, and identified all programs that reported the presence of a hospital-owned palliative care program and acute medical and surgical beds. They found that the number of palliative care programs increased 63% in just three years. In 2000, there were 632 such programs, representing 15 percent of hospitals. In 2003, there were 1,027 programs, representing 25% of hospitals.

The researchers found that palliative care programs are more readily available in the Northeast, Pacific and Mountain regions, and that larger hospitals, academic medical centers, not-for-profit hospitals and Veterans Administration hospitals are significantly more likely to develop palliative care programs than are city, county, state or for-profit hospitals.

"Additional strategies are required to stimulate growth in smaller community-based hospitals, perhaps with alternate program structures," the authors write.

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