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

Journal Article (Journal Article)


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.


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.


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.


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.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Samuel-Ryals, CA; Mbah, OM; Hinton, SP; Cross, SH; Reeve, BB; Dusetzina, SB

Published Date

  • November 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 36 / 11

Start / End Page

  • 3311 - 3320

PubMed ID

  • 33963508

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC8606371

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1525-1497

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0884-8734

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/s11606-021-06778-6


  • eng