Background: Advance care planning (ACP) is a process that enables individuals to describe, in advance, the kind of health care they would want in the future, and has been shown to reduce hospital-based interventions at the end of life. Our goal was to describe the current state of ACP in a home-based primary care program for frail homebound older people in Vancouver, Canada. We did this by identifying four key elements that should be essential to ACP in this program: frailty stage, documentation of substitute decision-makers, and decision-making with regard to both resuscitation (i.e., do not resuscitate (DNR)) and hospitalization (i.e., do not hospitalize (DNH)). While these elements are an important part of the ACP process, they are often excluded from common practice.
Methods: This was a cross-sectional, observational study of data abstracted from 200 randomly selected patient electronic medical records between July 1 and September 30, 2017. We describe the association between demographic characteristics, comorbidities, and four key elements of ACP documentation and decision-making as documented in the clinical record using bivariate comparison, a logistic regression model and multiple logistic regression analysis.
Results: In 73% (n=146) of the patient records, there was no explicit documentation of frailty stage. Sixty-four per cent had documentation of a substitute decision-maker. Of those who had their preferences documented, 90.6% (n=144/159) indicated a preference for DNR, and 23.6% (n=29/123) indicated a preference for DNH. In multiple regression modeling, a diagnosis of dementia and older age were associated with documentation of a DNR preference, adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 4.79 (95% CI 1.37, 16.71) and AOR = 1.14 (95% CI 1.05, 1.24), respectively. Older age, male sex, and English identified as the main language spoken were associated with a DNH preference. AOR = 1.17 (95% CI 1.06, 1.28), AOR = 4.19 (95% CI 1.41, 12.42), and AOR = 3.42 (95% CI 1.14, 10.20), respectively.
Conclusions: Clinician documentation of some elements of ACP, such as identification of a substitute decision-maker and resuscitation status, have been widely adopted, while other elements that should be considered essential components of ACP, such as frailty staging and preferences around hospitalization, are infrequent and provide an opportunity for practice improvement initiatives. The significant association between language and ACP decisions suggests an important role for supporting cross-cultural fluency in the ACP process.
This study evaluated a practice improvement initiative conducted over a 6 month period in 15 Canadian nursing homes. Goals of the initiative included: (1) use the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) model to improve advance care planning (ACP) within the sample of nursing homes; (2) investigate whether improved ACP practice resulted in a change in residents’ hospital use and ACP preferences for home-based care; (3) engage participating facilities in regular data collection to inform the initiative and provide a basis for reflection about ACP practice and; (4) foster a team-based participatory care culture. The initiative entailed two cycles of learning sessions followed by implementation of ACP practice improvement projects in the facilities using a PDSA approach by participating clinicians (e.g., physicians, social workers, nurses). Clinicians reported significantly increased confidence in many dimensions of ACP activities. Rates of hospital use and resident preference for home-based care did not change significantly. The initiative established routine data collection of outcomes to inform practice change, and successfully engaged physicians and non-physician clinicians to work together to improve ACP practices. Results suggest recurrent PDSA cycles that engage a ‘critical mass’ of clinicians may be warranted to reinforce the standardization of ACP in practice.