Post-Acute Care Outcomes and Functional Status Changes of Adults with New Cancer Discharged to Skilled Nursing Facilities

J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2022 Nov;23(11):1854-1860. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2022.02.010. Epub 2022 Mar 23.


Objective: Older hospitalized adults with an existing diagnosis of cancer rarely receive cancer treatment after discharge to a skilled nursing facility (SNF). It is unclear to what degree these outcomes may be driven by cumulative effects of previous cancer treatment and their complications vs an absolute functional threshold from which it is not possible to return. We sought to understand post-acute care outcomes of adults newly diagnosed with cancer and explore functional improvement during their SNF stay.

Design: Retrospective cohort study, 2011-2013.

Setting and participants: Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results - Medicare database of patients with new stage II-IV colorectal, pancreatic, bladder, or lung cancer discharged to SNF.

Methods: Primary outcome was time to death after hospital discharge. Covariates include cancer treatment receipt and hospice use. A Minimum Data Set (MDS)-Activities of Daily Living (ADL) score was calculated to measure changes in ADLs during SNF stay. Patient groups of interest were compared descriptively using means and standard deviations for continuous variables and frequencies and percentages for categorical variables. Logistic regression was used to compare patient groups.

Results: A total of 6791 cases were identified. Forty-six percent of patients did not receive treatment or hospice, 25.0% received no treatment but received hospice, 20.8% received treatment but no hospice, and 8.5% received both treatment and hospice. Only 43% of decedents received hospice. Patients who received treatment but not hospice had the best survival. There were limited improvements in MDS-ADL scores in the subset of patients for whom we have complete data. Those with greater functional improvement had improved survival.

Conclusions and implications: The majority of patients did not receive future cancer treatment or hospice care prior to death. There was limited improvement in MDS-ADL scores raising concern this population might not benefit from the rehabilitative intent of SNFs.

Keywords: Skilled nursing facility; cancer; palliative care; post-acute care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Functional Status
  • Humans
  • Medicare
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Patient Discharge
  • Patient Readmission
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities*
  • Subacute Care
  • United States