Research looks at racial differences in end-of-life care

Surveys reported fewer black patients used hospice services in the last month of life compared to white patients.
By Amy Wallace  |  Oct. 9, 2017 at 3:38 PM
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Oct. 9 (UPI) -- Researchers at the University of Washington analyzed survey data from the National Health and Aging Trends Study for racial disparities in end-of-life care, reporting no significant differences in the quality of end-of-life-care among patients.

Analysis of the survey, which included more than 1,700 interviews of Medicare enrollees age 65 and older as part of the National Health and Aging Trends Study from 2011 to 2015, showed no significant racial differences in the quality of end-of-life care among patients.

Although some survey respondents reported deficiencies in the quality of end-of-life care for both black and white patients, including unmet symptom care, communication problems and less than optimal decision-making.

The study, published today in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that black patients were more likely than white patients to die in the hospital, specifically in the intensive care unit.

Among the 1,726 interviews, 1,106 were completed by a family member or friend for the patient who died.

Results of the analysis also showed fewer black patients used hospice care in the last month of life than white patients. Respondents were more likely to report the patient not being treated with respect among white patients.

One in five respondents for black and white patients reported that family members were not always kept informed of information.

"Nevertheless, that overall care quality was rated good, fair or poor [rather than very good or excellent] for approximately 1 of 5 included decedents adds to previously reported concerns that the quality of end-of-life care may be worsening for older people in general and suggests that improvements are needed for all patients in the United States," researchers stated.

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