Objectives: Optimistic expectations about prognosis by surrogate decision-makers in ICUs are common, but there are few data about the causes and clinical consequences. Our objective was to determine the causes of optimistic expectations about prognosis among surrogates and whether it is associated with more use of life support at the end of life.
Design: Prospective, multicenter cohort study from 2009 to 2012.
Setting: Twelve ICUs from multiple regions of the United States.
Subjects: The surrogates and physicians of 275 incapacitated ICU patients at high risk of death.
Measurements and Main Results: Surrogates and physicians completed a validated instrument assessing their prognostic expectations for hospital survival. We determined the proportion of surrogates with optimistic expectations, defined as a prognostic estimate that was at least 20% more optimistic than the physician’s, then determined how frequently this arose from surrogates miscomprehending the physicians’ prognosis versus holding more hopeful beliefs compared with the physician. We used multivariable regression to examine whether optimistic expectations were associated with length of stay, stratified by survival status, and time to withdrawal of life support among nonsurvivors. Overall, 45% of surrogates (95% CI, 38–51%) held optimistic expectations about prognosis, which arose from a combination of misunderstanding the physician’s prognostic expectations and from holding more hopeful beliefs compared with the physician. Optimistic expectations by surrogates were associated with significantly longer duration of ICU treatment among nonsurvivors before death (ß coefficient = 0.44; 95% CI, 0.05–0.83; p = 0.027), corresponding to a 56% longer ICU stay. This difference was associated with a significantly longer time to withdrawal of life support among dying patients whose surrogates had optimistic prognostic expectations compared with those who did not (ß coefficient = 0.61; 95% CI, 0.16–1.07; p = 0.009).
Conclusions: The prevalent optimism about prognosis among surrogates in ICUs arises both from surrogates’ miscomprehension of physicians’ prognostications and from surrogates holding more hopeful beliefs. This optimism is associated with longer duration of life support at the end of life.
OBJECTIVE: Clinicians frequently overestimate survival time among seriously ill patients, and this can result in medical treatment at end of life that does not reflect the patient's preferences. Little is known, however, about the sources of clinicians' optimistic bias in survival estimation. Related work in social networks and experimental psychology demonstrates that psychological states-such as optimism-can transfer from one person to another.
METHODS: We directly observed and audio recorded 189 initial inpatient palliative care consultations among hospitalized patients with advanced cancer. Patients self-reported their level of trait optimism and expectations for survival prognosis prior to the palliative care consultation, and the palliative care clinicians rated their expectations for the patient's survival time following the initial conversation with the patient. We followed patient mortality for 6 months.
RESULTS: Patient optimism was associated with clinician overestimation of their survival in a dose-response relationship. Clinicians were approximately three times as likely to overestimate the survival of patients endorsing both high trait optimism and optimistic ratings of their survival time compared with neither (OR: 2.95; 95% CI: 1.24-7.02). This association was not attenuated by adjustment for age, gender, race, ethnicity, education, income, cancer type, functional status, quality of life, or white blood cell count (ORadj : 3.45; 95% CI: 1.24-9.66).
CONCLUSION: Patients' optimism may have some influence over their clinicians' prognostic judgments.
BACKGROUND: Expert communication skills are essential for the delivery of effective palliative care across the domains of care. However, few health care providers receive formal communication training. To promote communication education for interdisciplinary palliative care teams, a train-the-trainer course for interdisciplinary hospital-based palliative care teams was developed to prepare them to teach other health care professionals communication skills. Course Design: The curriculum was organized by the eight domains of the National Consensus Project Guidelines for Quality Palliative Care and provided communication skills training for California-based teams. The two-day train-the-trainer course included skill-building exercises and interactive discussions to assist participants in integrating communication skills building into their clinical settings. Using a goal-directed method of teaching, faculty assisted teams in developing three institutional goals for providing palliative care communication training to other health care professionals. Evaluation of the course included immediate postcourse evaluation and follow-up evaluation at six and nine months.
RESULTS: The first statewide interdisciplinary communication training took place in January 2018 with 26 palliative care teams consisting of primarily nurses, followed by social workers, chaplains, and physicians. The 46 course participants' postcourse evaluations demonstrated high satisfaction with the course. On a scale of 1 to 5 (1 = lowest), the course met participants' expectations and objectives (4.8). The teams' precourse goals focused on (1) staff education, training, and mentorship, and (2) institution-wide system changes.
CONCLUSION: Palliative care interdisciplinary teams can incorporate communication skills into their practice and provide communication skills training to their institutions.
OBJECTIVE: We examined whether conversations involving Black or Latino patients with advanced cancer differ in the presence or characteristics of prognosis communication.
METHODS: We audio-recorded initial consultations between 54 palliative care clinicians and 231 hospitalized people with advanced cancer. We coded for the presence and characteristics of prognosis communication. We examined whether the presence or characteristics of prognosis communication differed by patients' self-reported race/ethnicity.
RESULTS: In 231 consultations, 75.7% contained prognosis communication. Prognosis communication was less than half as likely to occur during conversations with Black or Latino patients (N = 48) compared to others. Among consultations in which prognosis was addressed, those involving Black or Latino patients were more than 8 times less likely to contain optimistically cued prognoses compared to others.
CONCLUSION: Prognosis communication occurred less frequently for Black and Latino patients and included fewer optimistic cues than conversations with other patients. More work is needed to better understand these observed patterns of prognosis communication that vary by race and ethnicity.
PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Growing evidence supports prognosis communication being important for end-of-life decision-making and disproportionately rare among non-White populations. Therefore, our findings identify a potentially salient target for clinical interventions that are focused on ameliorating disparities in end-of-life care.
CONTEXT: Prognosis communication is one hypothesized mechanism by which effective palliative care (PC) promotes preference-concordant treatment near end of life (EOL), but little is known about this relationship.
METHODS: This is a multisite cohort study of 231 hospitalized patients with advanced cancer who consulted with PC. We audio-recorded the initial consultation with the PC team and coded conversations for all statements regarding expectations for how long the patient will live. We refer to these statements as length-of-life talk. We followed patients for up to six months to determine EOL treatment utilization, including hospice enrollment. Patients completed a brief interviewer-facilitated questionnaire at study enrollment.
RESULTS: Forty-four percent (101/231) of observed conversations contained at least one statement about expectations for length of life, and 60% of patients (139/231) enrolled in hospice during the six months following these conversations. The association between length-of-life talk and hospice enrollment was strong among those (155/231) who endorsed treatment preferences favoring comfort over longevity in the last weeks to months of life (odds ratio [OR]adj = 2.98; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.34–6.65) and weak/absent among others (69/231; ORadj = 0.70; 95% CI = 0.16–3.04).
CONCLUSIONS: Talking about expectations for remaining length of life during PC consultations is associated with six-month hospice enrollment among people with advanced cancer who endorse preferences for EOL treatment that favor comfort over longevity.
Context: Clinicians frequently overestimate survival time in serious illness.
Objective: To understand the frequency of overestimation in palliative care (PC) and the relation with end-of-life (EOL) treatment.
Methods: This is a multi-site cohort study of 230 hospitalized patients with advanced cancer who consulted with PC between 2013 and 2016. We asked the consulting PC clinician to make their "best guess" about the patients' "most likely survival time, assuming that their illnesses are allowed to take their natural course." [<24 hours; 24 hours to < 2 weeks; 2 weeks to < 3 months; 3 months to < 6 months; 6 months or longer]. We followed patients for up to 6-months for mortality and EOL treatment utilization. Patients completed a brief interviewer-facilitated questionnaire at study enrollment.
Results: Median survival was 37 days (Interquartile Range: 12 days, 97 days) and 186/230 (81%) died during the follow-up period. Forty-one percent of clinicians' predictions were accurate. Among inaccurate prognoses, 85% were overestimates. Among those who died, overestimates were substantially associated with less hospice use (ORadj: 0.40; 95% CI: 0.16, 0.99) and later hospice enrollment (within 72 hours of death ORadj: 0.33; 95% CI: 0.15, ,0.74). PC clinicians were substantially more likely to overestimate survival for patients who identified as Black or Latino compared to others (ORadj: 3.89; 95% CI: 1.64, 9.22). EOL treatment preferences did not explain either of these findings.
Conclusions: Overestimation is common in PC, associated with lower hospice use and a potentially mutable source of racial/ethnic disparity in EOL care.
CONTEXT: Maximizing value in palliative care requires continued development and standardization of communication quality indicators.
OBJECTIVES: To describe the basic epidemiology of a newly-adopted patient-centered communication quality indicator for hospitalized palliative care patients with advanced cancer.
METHODS: Cross-sectional analysis of 207 advanced cancer patients who received palliative care consultation at two medical centers in the United States. Participants completed the Heard & Understood quality indicator immediately before and the day following the initial palliative care consultation: "Over the past two days ["24 hours" for the post-consultation version], how much have you felt heard and understood by the doctors, nurses and hospital staff? Completely/Quite a Bit/Moderately/Slightly/Not at All". We categorized "Completely" as indicating ideal quality.
RESULTS: Approximately one-third indicated ideal Heard & Understood quality before palliative care consultation. Age, financial security, emotional distress, preferences for comfort-longevity tradeoffs at end-of-life, and prognosis expectations were associated with pre-consultation quality. Among those with less-than-ideal quality at baseline, 56% rated feeling more Heard & Understood the day following palliative care consultation. The greatest pre-post improvement was among people who had unformed end-of-life treatment preferences or who reported having "no idea" about their prognosis at baseline.
CONCLUSION: Most patients felt incompletely heard and understood at the time of referral to palliative care consultation and more than half improved following consultation. Feeling heard and understood is an important quality indicator sensitive to interventions to improve care and key variations in the patient experience.
Familiarity with principles of palliative care, supportive care, and palliative oncological treatment is essential for providers caring for cancer patients, though this may be challenging in global communities where resources are limited. Herein, we describe the scope of literature on palliative oncological care curricula for providers in resource-limited settings. A systematic literature review was conducted using PubMed, Embase, Cochrane Library, Web of Science, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Med Ed Portal databases, and gray literature. All available prospective cohort studies, case reports, and narratives published up to July 2017 were eligible for review. Fourteen articles were identified and referenced palliative care education programs in Argentina, Uganda, Kenya, Australia, Germany, the USA, or multiple countries. The most common teaching strategy was lecture-based, followed by mentorship and experiential learning involving role play and simulation. Education topics included core principles of palliative care, pain and symptom management, and communication skills. Two programs included additional topics specific to the underserved or American Indian/Alaskan Native community. Only one program discussed supportive cancer care, and no program reported educational content on resource-stratified decision-making for palliative oncological treatment. Five programs reported positive participant satisfaction, and three programs described objective metrics of increased educational or research activity. There is scant literature on effective curricula for providers treating cancer patients in resource-limited settings. Emphasizing supportive cancer care and palliative oncologic treatments may help address gaps in education; increased outcome reporting may help define the impact of palliative care curriculum within resource-limited communities.
OBJECTIVES: To describe the development, launch, implementation, and outcomes of a unique multisite collaborative (ie, IMPACT-ICU [Integrating Multidisciplinary Palliative Care into the ICU]) to teach ICU nurses communication skills specific to palliative care. To identify options for collaboration between oncology and critical care nurses when integrating palliation into nursing care planning.
DATA SOURCES: Published literature and collective experiences of the authors in the provision of onco-critical-palliative care.
CONCLUSION: While critical care nurses were the initial focus of education, oncology, telemetry, step-down, and medical-surgical nurses within five university medical centers subsequently participated in this learning collaborative. Participants reported enhanced confidence in communicating with patients, families, and physicians, offering emotional support and involvement in family meetings.
IMPLICATIONS FOR NURSING PRACTICE: Communication education is a vital yet missing element of undergraduate nursing education. Programs should be offered in the work setting to address this gap in needed nurse competency, particularly within the context of onco-critical-palliative care.