Inequity in palliative care service full utilisation among patients with advanced cancer: a retrospective Cohort study

Acta Oncol. 2020 Jun;59(6):620-627. doi: 10.1080/0284186X.2020.1736335. Epub 2020 Mar 9.


Background: Advanced cancer patients often die in hospital after receiving needless, aggressive treatment. Although palliative care improves symptom management, barriers to accessing palliative care services affect its utilisation, and such disparities challenge the equitable provision of palliative care. This study aimed to identify which factors are associated with inequitable palliative care service utilisation among advanced cancer patients by applying the Andersen Behavioural Model of Health Services Use.Material and methods: This was a retrospective cohort study using administrative healthcare data. A total of 13,656 patients residing in the Lazio region of Italy, who died of an advanced cancer-related cause-either in hospital or in a specialised palliative care facility-during the period of 2012-2016 were included in the study. Potential predictors of specialised palliative service utilisation were explored by grouping the following factors: predisposing factors (i.e., individuals' characteristics), enabling factors (i.e., systemic/structural factors) and need factors (i.e., type/severity of illness).Results: The logistic hierarchical regression showed that older patients (odds ratio [OR] = 1.45; <0.0001) of Caucasian ethnicity (OR = 4.17; 0.02), with a solid tumour (OR = 1.87; <0.0001) and with a longer survival time (OR = 2.09; <0.0001) were more likely to be enrolled in a palliative care service. Patients who lived farther from a specialised palliative care facility (OR = 0.13; <0.0001) and in an urban area (OR = 0.58; <0.0001) were less likely to be enrolled.Conclusion: This study found that socio-demographic (age, ethnicity), clinical (type of tumour, survival time) and organisational (area of residence, distance from service) factors affect the utilisation of specialised palliative care services. The fact that service utilisation is not only a function of patients' needs but also of other aspects demonstrates the presence of inequity in access to palliative care among advanced cancer patients.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cause of Death
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Healthcare Disparities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / ethnology
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Palliative Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Discharge
  • Registries / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data
  • Survival Rate
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data
  • White People / statistics & numerical data