Does Geography Play a Role in the Receipt of End-of-Life Care for Advanced Cancer Patients? Evidence from an Australian Local Health District Population-Based Study

Publication Name

Journal of Palliative Medicine


Objectives: To assess the influence of geographic remoteness on health care utilization at end of life (EOL) by people with advanced cancer in a geographically diverse Australian local health district, using two objective measures of rurality and travel-time estimations to health care facilities. Methods: This retrospective cohort study examined the association between rurality (using the Modified Monash Model) and travel-time estimation, and demographic and clinical factors, with the receipt of >1 inpatient and outpatient health service in the last year of life in multivariate models. The study cohort comprised of 3546 patients with cancer, aged ‡18 years, who died in a public hospital between 2015 and 2019. Results: Compared with decedents from metropolitan areas, decedents from some rural areas had higher rates of emergency department visits (small rural towns: aRR 1.29, 95% CI: 1.07–1.57) and ICU admissions (large rural towns: aRR 1.32, 95% CI: 1.03–1.69), but lower rates of acute hospital admissions (large rural towns: aRR 0.83, 95% CI: 0.76–0.90), inpatient palliative care (PC) (regional centers: aRR 0.85, 95% CI: 0.75–0.97), and inpatient radiotherapy (lowest in small rural towns: aRR 0.07, 95% CI: 0.03–0.18). Decedents from rural and regional centers had lower rates of outpatient chemotherapy and radiotherapy use, yet higher rates of outpatient cancer service utilization (p < 0.05). Shorter travel times (10–<30 minutes) were associated with higher rates of inpatient specialist PC (aRR 1.48, 95% CI: 1.09–1.98). Conclusions: Reporting on a series of inpatient and outpatient services used in the last year of life, measures of rurality and travel-time estimates can be useful tools to estimate geographic variation in EOL cancer care provision, with significant gaps uncovered in inpatient PC and outpatient service utilization in rural areas. Policies aimed at redistributing EOL resources in rural and regional communities to reduce travel times to health care facilities could help to reduce regional disparities and ensure equitable access to EOL care services.

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Funding Sponsor

University of Wollongong



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