Quality of End-of-Life Cancer Care for Medicare Beneficiaries

Elderly patients with poor prognosis cancer receive markedly different care depending on where they live, according to the Dartmouth Atlas Project’s first-ever report on cancer care at the end of life. Even among the nation’s leading academic medical centers, there is no consistent pattern of care or evidence that treatment patterns follow patient preferences, the researchers found. Many clinical teams aggressively treat patients with curative attempts they may not want, at the expense of improving the quality of their life in their last weeks and months.

The report, titled Quality of End-of-Life Cancer Care for Medicare Beneficiaries, shows that many challenges remain to improving the care of patients with serious, life-limiting illness. For more than 20 years, the Dartmouth Atlas Project has documented glaring variations in how medical resources are distributed and used in the United States. Run by the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, the project is principally funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.