5 important end-of-life topics to discuss with seriously ill patients

There are five important factors hospitals and families must address when it comes to patients' end-of-life discussions, according to a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Researchers, led by John You of McMaster University, asked 233 adult patients with serious illnesses and 205 family members in nine Canadian hospitals about the occurrence and importance of 11 guidelines recommended in goal-of-care discussions. They said the five elements that are most important to address are a patient's:

  1. Preferences for care in the event of a life-threatening illness

  2. Values

  3. Prognosis

  4. Fears or concerns

  5. Questions about the goals of care

Addressing more elements of discussion correlated with greater alignment between patients' preferences and prescribed goals of care, as well as greater patient satisfaction, according to the study.

However, researchers also found that healthcare providers don't often address all elements of goals-of-care discussions, and hospitals must come up with interventions to improve the rate of occurrence of those talks. Patients reported that of the 11 key elements, the healthcare teams only discussed an average of 1.4 within the first few days of admission, according to the study.

Healthcare leaders and providers must become comfortable talking about end-of-life care and death with patients, FierceHealthcare previously reported. A recent report from the Institute of Medicine, "Dying in America," found that the demand for family caregivers is on the rise, especially because end-of-life care is fragmented and can lead to preventable hospitalizations. 

To learn more:
- here's the study abstract