Sociodemographic Disparities in Access to Hospice and Palliative Care: An Integrative Review

Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2021 Nov;38(11):1378-1390. doi: 10.1177/1049909120985419. Epub 2021 Jan 11.


Background: There is growing evidence of disparities in access to hospice and palliative care services to varying degrees by sociodemographic groups. Underlying factors contributing to access issues have received little systematic attention.

Objective: To synthesize current literature on disparities in access to hospice and palliative care, highlight the range of sociodemographic groups affected by these inequities, characterize the domains of access addressed, and outline implications for research, policy, and clinical practice.

Design: An integrative review comprised a systematic search of PubMed, Embase, and CINAHL databases, which was conducted from inception to March 2020 for studies outlining disparities in hospice and palliative care access in the United States. Data were analyzed using critical synthesis within the context of a health care accessibility conceptual framework. Included studies were appraised on methodological quality and quality of reporting.

Results: Of the articles included, 80% employed non-experimental study designs. Study measures varied, but 70% of studies described differences in outcomes by race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. Others revealed disparate access based on variables such as age, gender, and geographic location. Overall synthesis highlighted evidence of disparities spanning 5 domains of access: Approachability, Acceptability, Availability, Affordability, and Appropriateness; 60% of studies primarily emphasized Acceptability, Affordability, and Appropriateness.

Conclusions: This integrative review highlights the need to consider various stakeholder perspectives and attitudes at the individual, provider, and system levels going forward, to target and address access issues spanning all domains.

Keywords: health services accessibility; healthcare disparities; hospices; palliative care; review.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Databases, Factual
  • Health Facilities
  • Hospice Care*
  • Hospice and Palliative Care Nursing*
  • Hospices*
  • Humans
  • Palliative Care