Evaluating the Contribution of Patient-Provider Communication and Cancer Diagnosis to Racial Disparities in End-of-Life Care Among Medicare Beneficiaries

J Gen Intern Med. 2021 May 7. doi: 10.1007/s11606-021-06778-6. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: The quality of end-of-life (EOL) care in the USA remains suboptimal, with significant variations in care by race and across disease subgroups. Patient-provider communication may contribute to racial and disease-specific variations in EOL care outcomes.

OBJECTIVE: We examined racial disparities in EOL care, by disease group (cancer vs. non-cancer), and assessed whether racial differences in patient-provider communication accounted for observed disparities.

DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study using the 2001-2015 Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results – Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems data linked with Medicare claims (SEER-CAHPS). We employed stratified propensity score matching and modified Poisson regression analyses, adjusting for clinical and demographic characteristics PARTICIPANTS: Black and White Medicare beneficiaries 65 years or older with cancer (N=2000) or without cancer (N=11,524).

MAIN MEASURES: End-of-life care measures included hospice use, inpatient hospitalizations, intensive care unit (ICU) stays, and emergency department (ED) visits, during the 90 days prior to death.

KEY RESULTS: When considering all conditions together (cancer + non-cancer), Black beneficiaries were 26% less likely than their Whites counterparts to enroll in hospice (adjusted risk ratio [ARR]: 0.74, 95%CI: 0.66-0.83). Among beneficiaries without cancer, Black beneficiaries had a 32% lower likelihood of enrolling in hospice (ARR: 0.68, 95%CI: 0.59-0.79). There was no racial difference in hospice enrollment among cancer patients. Black beneficiaries were also at increased risk for ED use (ARR: 1.12, 95%CI: 1.01-1.26). Patient-provider communication did not explain racial disparities in hospice or ED use. There were no racial differences in hospitalizations or ICU admissions.

CONCLUSION: We observed racial disparities in hospice use and ED visits in the 90 days prior to death among Medicare beneficiaries; however, hospice disparities were largely driven by patients without cancer. Condition-specific differences in palliative care integration at the end-of-life may partly account for variations in EOL care disparities across disease groups.

PMID:33963508 | DOI:10.1007/s11606-021-06778-6