End-of-Life Services Among Patients With Cancer: Evidence From Cancer Registry Records Linked With Commercial Health Insurance Claims.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Journal of oncology practice, p.JOP2017021683 (2017)


PURPOSE: Despite guidelines emphasizing symptom management over aggressive treatment, end-of-life care for persons with cancer in the United States is highly variable. In consultation with a regional collaboration of patients, providers, and payers, we investigated indicators of high-quality end-of-life care to describe patterns of care, identify areas for improvement, and inform future interventions to enhance end-of-life care for patients with cancer.

METHODS: We linked insurance claims to clinical information from the western Washington SEER database. We included persons ≥ 18 years of age who had been diagnosed with an invasive solid tumor between January 1, 2007, and December 31, 2015, and who had a recorded death date, were enrolled in a commercial plan for the last month of life, and made at least one insurance claim in the last 90 days of life.

RESULTS: In the last month of life, among 6,568 commercially insured patients, 56.3% were hospitalized and 48.6% underwent at least one imaging scan. Among patients younger than 65 years of age, 31.4% were enrolled in hospice; of those younger than 65 years of age who were not enrolled in hospice, 40.5% had received an opioid prescription. Over time, opioid use in the last 30 days of life among young adults not enrolled in hospice dropped from 44.7% in the period 2007 to 2009 to 42.5% in the period 2010 to 2012 and to 36.7% in the period 2013 to 2015.

CONCLUSION: Hospitalization and high-cost imaging scans are burdensome to patients and caregivers at the end of life. Our findings suggest that policies that facilitate appropriate imaging, opioid, and hospice use and that encourage supportive care may improve end-of-life care and quality of life.