Evaluation of Racial Disparities in Hospice Use and End-of-Life Treatment Intensity in the REGARDS Cohort

Katherine A. Ornstein, David L. Roth, Jin Huang, Emily B. Levitan, J. David Rhodes, Chanee D. Fabius, Monika M. Safford, Orla C. Sheehan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Importance: Although hospice use is increasing and patients in the US are increasingly dying at home, racial disparities in treatment intensity at the end of life, including hospice use, remain. Objective: To examine differences between Black and White patients in end-of-life care in a population sample with well-characterized causes of death. Design, Setting, and Participants: This study used data from the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study, an ongoing population-based cohort study with enrollment between January 25, 2003, and October 3, 2007, with linkage to Medicare claims data. Multivariable logistic regression models were used to examine racial and regional differences in end-of-life outcomes and in stroke mortality among 1212 participants with fee-for-service Medicare who died between January 1, 2013, and December 31, 2015, owing to natural causes and excluding sudden death, with oversampling of Black individuals and residents of Southeastern states in the United States. Initial analyses were conducted in March 2019, and final primary analyses were conducted in February 2020. Main Outcomes and Measures: The primary outcomes of interest were hospice use of 3 or more days in the last 6 months of life derived from Medicare claims files. Other outcomes included multiple hospitalizations, emergency department visits, and use of intensive procedures in the last 6 months of life. Cause of death was adjudicated by an expert panel of clinicians using death certificates, proxy interviews, autopsy reports, and medical records. Results: The sample consisted of 1212 participants (630 men [52.0%]; 378 Black individuals [31.2%]; mean [SD] age at death, 81.0 [8.6] years) of 2542 total deaths. Black decedents were less likely than White decedents to use hospice for 3 or more days (132 of 378 [34.9%] vs 385 of 834 [46.2%]; P < .001). After stratification by cause of death, substantial racial differences in treatment intensity and service use were found among persons who died of cardiovascular disease but not among patients who died of cancer. In analyses adjusted for cause of death (dementia, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other) and clinical and demographic variables, Black decedents were significantly less likely to use 3 or more days of hospice (odds ratio [OR], 0.72; 95% CI, 0.54-0.96) and were more likely to have multiple emergency department visits (OR, 1.35; 95% CI, 1.01-1.80) and hospitalizations (OR, 1.39; 95% CI, 1.02-1.89) and undergo intensive treatment (OR, 1.94; 95% CI, 1.40-2.70) in the last 6 months of life compared with White decedents. Conclusions and Relevance: Despite the increase in the use of hospice care in recent decades, racial disparities in the use of hospice remain, especially for noncancer deaths. More research is required to better understand racial disparities in access to and quality of end-of-life care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e2014639
JournalJAMA network open
Issue number8
StatePublished - 3 Aug 2020


Dive into the research topics of 'Evaluation of Racial Disparities in Hospice Use and End-of-Life Treatment Intensity in the REGARDS Cohort'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this