Age Differences in Care Practices and Outcomes for Hospitalized Patients with Cancer

Published in: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, v. 48, no. 5, suppl., May 2000, p. S25-S32

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2000

by Julia Hannum Rose, Elizabeth E. O'Toole, Neal V. Dawson, Charles Thomas, Alfred F. Connors, Jr., Neil S. Wenger, Russell S. Phillips, Mary Beth Hamel, Harvey Cohen, Joanne Lynn

OBJECTIVE: To identify age group differences in care practices and outcomes for seriously ill hospitalized patients with malignancy. DESIGN: Prospective cohort study (SUPPORT project). SETTING: Five United States teaching hospitals; data was gathered between 1989 and 1994. SUBJECTS: Nine hundred twenty five older (age > 65 years), 983 middle aged (age = 45-64 years), and 274 younger (age = 18-44 years) hospitalized patients receiving care for non-small cell lung cancer, colon cancer metastasized to the liver, or multi-organ system failure associated with malignancy. MEASUREMENTS: Care practices and patient outcomes were determined from hospital records. Length of survival was identified using the National Death Index. After adjusting for important variables, including severity of illness (i.e., SUPPORT model estimate for 2-month survival, cancer condition), hospital site, selection to intervention and sociodemographic variables, age group differences in care practices and outcomes were identified using general linear models. RESULTS: Older patients with cancer had lower resource utilization during hospitalization (P < .04) and were less likely to receive cancer-related treatments (i.e., chemotherapy, platelet infusions, scheduled intravenous medications) than middle-aged and young-adult patients in the first week of hospitalization (P < .01). More care topics were discussed with older patients and their families then with younger patients and their families (P < .001). Length of stay and total hospital costs were lower for older and middle-aged patients than for younger patients. Although more older patients had discussions about transfer to hospice (P < .00 1), older patients were no more likely to be discharged with supportive care (inpatient hospice or home with home/ hospice care). Older patients died sooner than middle-aged patients (P < .01). CONCLUSIONS: Patient age influenced care decisions and outcomes. Older patients (age > 65 years) received less aggressive care, had more discussions about care decisions, and died sooner then younger patients with cancer. Younger patients had longer stays, higher hospital costs, and greater probability of rehospitalization. Although well over half of patients died within 6 months of hospitalization, few patients in any age group were discharged with supportive care. Future studies should examine age differences in palliation, as well as acute care of cancer patients across inpatient and ambulatory care settings and should assess quality of care at the end of life.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation external publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.