Gaps in Provision of Primary and Specialty Palliative Care in the Acute Care Setting by Race and Ethnicity

Elizabeth Chuang, Aluko A. Hope, Katherine Allyn, Elissa Szalkiewicz, Brittany Gary, Michelle N. Gong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Context Previous research has identified a large unmet need in provision of specialist-level palliative care services in the hospital. How much of this gap is filled by primary palliative care provided by generalists or nonpalliative specialists has not been quantified. Estimates of racial and ethnic disparities have been inconsistent. Objectives The objective of this study was to 1) estimate primary and specialty palliative care delivery and to measure unmet needs in the inpatient setting and 2) explore racial and ethnic disparities in palliative care delivery. Methods This was a cross-sectional, retrospective study of 55,658 adult admissions to two acute care hospitals in the Bronx in 2013. Patients with palliative care needs were identified by criteria adapted from the literature. The primary outcomes were delivery of primary and specialist-level palliative care. Results In all, 18.5% of admissions met criteria for needing palliative care. Of those, 18% received specialist-level palliative care, an estimated 30% received primary palliative care, and 37% had no evidence of palliative care or advance care planning. Black and Hispanic patients were not less likely to receive specialist-level palliative care (adjusted odds ratio [OR] black patients = 1.18, 95% CI 0.98, 1.42; adjusted OR Hispanic patients = 1.24, 95% CI 1.04, 1.48), but they were less likely to receive primary palliative care (adjusted OR black patients = 0.41, 95% CI 0.20, 0.84; adjusted OR Hispanic patients = 0.48, 95% CI 0.25, 0.94). Conclusion Even when considering primary and specialty palliative care, hospitalized patients have a high prevalence of unmet palliative care need. Further research is needed understand racial and ethnic disparities in palliative care delivery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)645-653.e1
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2017


  • Health Services Research
  • Health care disparities
  • health communication
  • hospital medicine
  • palliative care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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