Age and disease severity are significant factors in spiritual care utilization among hospitalized patients with advanced cancer, according to a retrospective review of medical records. These findings were published in JCO Oncology Practice.

A previous study found that 90% of inpatients with advanced cancer desired spiritual care, and receiving it could improve their quality of life. For this study, researchers sought to understand the patient profile of those who desired spiritual care and what impact receiving spiritual care had on outcomes.

Patient records from Yale New Haven Hospital were reviewed for admission to the intensive care unit (ICU), inpatient death, readmission within 30 days of discharge, and emergency department (ED) visits within 30 days among patients who did (11,053) and did not (20,570) receive spiritual care during consultation.

Continue Reading

Patients were mean age 63.58±15.97 years, Rothman index was 69.93±18.40, and hospital stay was 6.81±8.55 days.

Characteristics of those patients who sought a spiritual consultation were older age, lower Rothman index score, and had received social work and palliative care. Spiritual care also associated with a longer hospital stay (b, 4.92; P <.0001), ICU admission (odds ratio [OR], 2.98; P <.0001), ED visit within 30 days (OR, 1.17; P <.0001), readmission within 30 days (OR, 1.07; P =.018), and inpatient death (OR, 1.46; P <.0001).

This study was limited by its retrospective review and not including a dedicated instrument to evaluate quality of life.

“These data are not causative, but correlative. One cannot conclude that patients have poorer hospital outcomes because of spiritual care. Rather, it is more likely that patients who are older and sicker have a greater demand for spiritual care than their younger and healthier counterparts,” explained the researchers.

Disclosure: One study author declared affiliations with biotech, pharmaceutical, and/or device companies. Please see the original reference for a full list of authors’ disclosures.


Chow R, Tenenbaum L, Balboni TA, Prsic EH. Medical outcomes of oncology inpatients with and without chaplain spiritual care visit: the Yale New Haven Hospital experience. JCO Oncol Pract. 2021;OP2100600. doi:10.1200/OP.21.00600