OBJECTIVES: Assessing whether interventions are implemented as intended (fidelity) is critical to establishing efficacy in clinical research yet rarely applied in advance care planning (ACP) interventions. We aimed to develop and implement a fidelity audit tool for an ACP intervention.
METHODS: We developed a fidelity audit tool assessing: (A) content; (B) quality (general communication, eliciting EOL preferences and prognostic communication); and (C) family/caregiver involvement. We audited (double-coded) 55 audio-recordings of ACP discussions delivered to advanced cancer patients and caregivers, within a clinical trial.
RESULTS: Fidelity to content was high: mean=9.38/11 but lower for the quality of general communication (mean=12.47/20), discussion of patient preferences (mean=4.67/7), prognosis (mean=3.9/6) and family/caregiver involvement (mean=2.67/4). Older patient age and caregiver religiosity were associated with higher fidelity. Higher fidelity to content was associated with the trial primary outcome of family caregiver report of patient wishes being discussed and met.
CONCLUSIONS: Fidelity to content, but not quality, of the ACP intervention is strong. Communication skills training is critical for ACP interventionists. Adherence was higher with older patients and religious carers, factors that may influence acceptance of death and readiness to undertake ACP, making the discussion easier.
Advance care planning is increasingly considered to be an essential element of quality End of Life (EOL) care. However, the implementation of Advance care planning (ACP) is not backed by a solid foundation of established evidence of clinical effectiveness (1). Syntheses of the ACP literature have concluded that while ACP interventions are likely to have benefits for patients, family, and healthcare staff, there is a lack of high quality research, particularly well-conducted RCTs, that evaluate ACP interventions (2, 3).