End-of-life quality metrics among medicare decedents at minority-serving cancer centers: A retrospective study

Cancer Med. 2020 Mar;9(5):1911-1921. doi: 10.1002/cam4.2752. Epub 2020 Jan 11.


Background: We calculated the performance of National Cancer Institute (NCI)/National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) cancer centers' end-of-life (EOL) quality metrics among minority and white decedents to explore center-attributable sources of EOL disparities.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of Medicare beneficiaries with poor-prognosis cancers who died between April 1, 2016 and December 31, 2016 and had any inpatient services in the last 6 months of life. We attributed patients' EOL treatment to the center at which they received the preponderance of EOL inpatient services and calculated eight risk-adjusted metrics of EOL quality (hospice admission ≤3 days before death; chemotherapy last 14 days of life; ≥2 emergency department (ED) visits; intensive care unit (ICU) admission; or life-sustaining treatment last 30 days; hospice referral; palliative care; advance care planning last 6 months). We compared performance between patients across and within centers.

Results: Among 126,434 patients, 10,119 received treatment at one of 54 NCI/NCCN centers. In aggregate, performance was worse among minorities for ED visits (10.3% vs 7.4%, P < .01), ICU admissions (32.9% vs 30.4%, P = .03), no hospice referral (39.5% vs 37.0%, P = .03), and life-sustaining treatment (19.4% vs 16.2%, P < .01). Despite high within-center correlation for minority and white metrics (0.61-0.79; P < .01), five metrics demonstrated worse performance as the concentration of minorities increased: ED visits (P = .03), ICU admission (P < .01), no hospice referral (P < .01), and life-sustaining treatments (P < .01).

Conclusion: EOL quality metrics vary across NCI/NCCN centers. Within center, care was similar for minority and white patients. Minority-serving centers had worse performance on many metrics.

Keywords: cancer; end-of-life quality; minority; treatment intensity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural