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What really matters in end-of-life discussions? Perspectives of patients in hospital with serious illness and their families

John J You, Peter Dodek, Francois Lamontagne, James Downar, Tasnim Sinuff, Xuran Jiang, Andrew G Day, Daren K Heyland
CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal, Journal de L'Association Medicale Canadienne 2014 December 9, 186 (18): E679-87

BACKGROUND: The guideline-recommended elements to include in discussions about goals of care with patients with serious illness are mostly based on expert opinion. We sought to identify which elements are most important to patients and their families.

METHODS: We used a cross-sectional study design involving patients from 9 Canadian hospitals. We asked older adult patients with serious illness and their family members about the occurrence and importance of 11 guideline-recommended elements of goals-of-care discussions. In addition, we assessed concordance between prescribed goals of care and patient preferences, and we measured patient satisfaction with goals-of-care discussions using the Canadian Health Care Evaluation Project (CANHELP) questionnaire.

RESULTS: Our study participants included 233 patients (mean age 81.2 yr) and 205 family members (mean age 60.2 yr). Participants reported that clinical teams had addressed individual elements of goals-of-care discussions infrequently (range 1.4%-31.7%). Patients and family members identified the same 5 elements as being the most important to address: preferences for care in the event of life-threatening illness, values, prognosis, fears or concerns, and questions about goals of care. Addressing more elements was associated with both greater concordance between patients' preferences and prescribed goals of care, and greater patient satisfaction.

INTERPRETATION: We identified elements of goals-of-care discussions that are most important to older adult patients in hospital with serious illness and their family members. We found that guideline-recommended elements of goals-of-care discussions are not often addressed by health care providers. Our results can inform interventions to improve the determination of goals of care in the hospital setting.


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