Palliative Care in the Rural U.S.

Research center:
Lead researcher:
Project funded:
September 2021
Anticipated completion date:
January 2024

Palliative care helps to improve quality of life for patients and families experiencing serious illness while lowering health care costs, but no comprehensive national information exists on palliative care services in the rural U.S. This project will answer four key questions about how rural populations access palliative care: (1) how available is palliative care in rural vs. urban hospitals across the U.S., nationally, regionally, and by level of rurality; (2) how equitably are palliative care services distributed within rural areas according to community characteristics such as poverty, education, and employment level and racial/ethnic composition of the population; (3) how have some of the smallest rural hospitals with palliative care services developed and maintained these services using workforce and technological solutions; and (4) how often are rural palliative care services offered by organizations other than hospitals? This project will use data from the American Hospital Association Annual Survey Database, interviews with small rural hospitals that offer palliative care services, and a survey of rural hospitals without palliative care services.

This project will describe the availability of palliative in rural versus urban hospitals and document emerging palliative care solutions for rural communities. Understanding the particular needs and innovations of rural communities in providing palliative care can help inform policy initiatives to ensure that rural populations have access to health services that improve quality of life while reducing costs.