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J Palliat Med. 2018 Jan;21(1):69-77. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2016.0557. Epub 2017 Nov 6.

The Paradox of End-of-Life Hospital Treatment Intensity among Black Patients: A Retrospective Cohort Study.

Author information

1
1 The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice , Geisel School of Medicine, Lebanon , New Hampshire.
2
2 Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine , Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
3
3 Department of Biostatistics, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health , Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
4
4 Department of Health Care Policy and Management, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health , Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
5
5 Department of Critical Care Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine , Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

Black patients are more likely than white patients to die in the hospital with intensive care and life-sustaining treatments and less likely to use hospice. Regional concentration of high end-of-life (EOL) treatment intensity practice patterns may disproportionately affect black patients. We calculated and compared race-specific hospital-level EOL treatment intensity in Pennsylvania.

METHODS:

We conducted a retrospective cohort analysis of Pennsylvania acute care hospital admissions, 2001-2007, among black and white admissions ≥21 years old at high probability of dying (HPD) (≥15% predicted probability of dying at admission). We calculated hospitals' race-specific observed, expected, and Bayes' shrunken observed-to-expected ratios of intensive care unit (ICU) admission, ICU length of stay (LOS), intubation/mechanical ventilation, hemodialysis, tracheostomy, and gastrostomy among HPD admissions; and an empirically weighted EOL treatment intensity index summing these ratios.

RESULTS:

There were 35,609 black HPD admissions (27,576 unique patients) and 311,896 white HPD admissions (252,662 unique patients) to 182 hospitals. Among 95 hospitals with ≥30 black HPD admissions, 80% of black admissions were concentrated in 29 hospitals, where black-specific observed and expected EOL measures were usually higher than white-specific measures (p < 0.001 for all but 5/24 measures). Hospitals' black-specific and white-specific observed-to-expected ratios of ICU and life-sustaining treatment (LST) (rho 0.52-0.90) and EOL index (rho = 0.92) were highly correlated. However, black-specific observed-to-expected ratios and overall EOL intensity index were consistently lower than white-specific ratios (p < 0.001 for all except hemodialysis).

CONCLUSIONS:

In Pennsylvania, black-serving hospitals have higher standardized EOL treatment intensity than nonblack-serving hospitals, contributing to black patients' relatively higher use of intensive treatment. However, conditional on being admitted to the same high-intensity hospital and after risk adjustment, blacks are less intensively treated than whites.

KEYWORDS:

disparity; hospital profiling; intensive care; life support; race; terminal care

PMID:
29106315
PMCID:
PMC5757087
[Available on 2019-01-01]
DOI:
10.1089/jpm.2016.0557

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