The Experience of Black Patients With Serious Illness in the United States: A Scoping Review

Rachael Heitner, Maggie Rogers, Brittany Chambers, Rachel Pinotti, Allison Silvers, Diane E. Meier, Brynn Bowman, Kimberly S. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Context: Black patients experience health disparities in access and quality of care. Objective: To identify and characterize the literature on the experiences of Black patients with serious illness across multiple domains – physical, spiritual, emotional, cultural, and healthcare utilization. Methods: We conducted a scoping review of US literature from the last ten years using the PRISMA-ScR framework. PubMed was used to conduct a comprehensive search, followed by recursive citation searches in Scopus. Two reviewers screened the resulting citations to determine eligibility for inclusion and extracted data, including study methods and sample populations. The included articles were categorized by topic and then further organized using the Social-Ecological Model. Results: From an initial review of 433 articles, a final sample of 160 were included in the scoping review. The majority of articles used quantitative research methods and were published in the last four years. Articles were categorized into 20 topics, ranging from Access to Hospice and Utilization (42 articles) to Community Outreach and Services (three articles). Three-quarters (76.3%) of the included studies provided evidence that racial disparities exist in serious illness care, while less than one-quarter examined causes of disparities. The most common Model levels were the Health Care System (102 articles) and Individual (71 articles) levels. Conclusion: More articles focused on establishing evidence of disparities between Black and White patients than on understanding their root causes. Further investigation is warranted to understand how factors at the patient, provider, health system, and society levels interact to remediate disparities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e501-e511
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2023


  • Black patients
  • health disparities
  • scoping review
  • serious illness


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