Sociodemographic, insurance, and clinical characteristics are associated with experience with physicians and medical care among patients with cancer in their last year before death, according to a study published in the journal Cancer.1

Because it is important to provide high-quality medical care to patients with cancer during their last year of life, researchers sought to evaluate factors associated with health care ratings among patients within 1 year before death.

For the study, investigators analyzed data from 5102 Medicare beneficiaries with cancer within 1 year before their death who were included in the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER)-Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) data set, which links patient-reported information from the CAHPS Medicare Survey to clinical information from the National Cancer Institute’s SEER program. 

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Results showed that patients with higher general or mental health status were significantly more likely to report excellent experience with nearly all measures of their health care.

Researchers found that males and college graduates were significantly less likely to provide excellent ratings for health plans or specialist physicians, while Hispanic patients were more likely to provide excellent ratings for health plan or specialist physicians compared with non-Hispanic white people.

Patients with breast or lung cancer were significantly more likely to provide an excellent rating for getting care quickly compared with those with other cancer types.

In addition, patients with fee-for-service Medicare insurance plans were significantly more likely to report an excellent experience with getting care quickly, getting needed care, and getting needed prescription drugs.

“These findings provide guidance for the development of programs to improve experience with medical care among individuals who are anticipated to be in their last year of life,” the authors conclude.


1. Halpern MT, Urato MP, Kent EE. The health care experience of patients with cancer during the last year of life: analysis of the SEER-CAHPS data set. Cancer. 2016 Sep 21. doi: 10.1002/cncr.30319. [Epub ahead of print]