OBJECTIVE: We sought to understand whether people with cancer who received mental health services reported different care experiences than those who did not.
METHODS: We used Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER)-Consumer Assessment of Health Providers and Systems (CAHPS) linked data to identify Medicare beneficiaries aged 66 and over diagnosed with solid tumor malignancies between 8/2006 and 12/2013. We identified mental health services using claims spanning 12 months before cancer diagnosis through up to 5 years afterward. Outcomes were care experience ratings (e.g., Overall Care) and composite measures (e.g., Doctor Communication). We estimated frequentist and Bayesian regression models adjusted for standard confounders, including sociodemographics, general and mental health status (MHS), and other characteristics. Models included interaction terms to understand whether mental healthcare changes self-reported experiences for individuals with adverse MHS.
RESULTS: Approximately 22% (n = 4998 individuals with cancer) had a mental health disorder claim; 17% of these reported fair/poor MHS versus only 7% of those in the cancer-only cohort (without a mental health disorder claim). Before adjusting for mental healthcare utilization and case-mix, worse MHS was associated with worse care experiences (p < 0.001 for all six measures). After accounting for mental health disorder-related healthcare utilization and case mix, multivariable regression models showed no associations between MHS and worse care experiences.
CONCLUSIONS: Care for mental health disorders mediates the association between MHS and perceived care experiences. The results suggest that mental health treatment may improve the self-reported experiences of care for older adults with cancer and adverse mental health issues.