Effect of a Patient and Clinician Communication-Priming Intervention on Patient-Reported Goals-of-Care Discussions Between Patients With Serious Illness and Clinicians: A Randomized Clinical Trial

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Abstract

Importance

Clinician communication about goals of care is associated with improved patient outcomes and reduced intensity of end-of-life care, but it is unclear whether interventions can improve this communication.

Objective

To evaluate the efficacy of a patient-specific preconversation communication-priming intervention (Jumpstart-Tips) targeting both patients and clinicians and designed to increase goals-of-care conversations compared with usual care.

Design, Setting, and Participants

Multicenter cluster-randomized trial in outpatient clinics with physicians or nurse practitioners and patients with serious illness. The study was conducted between 2012 and 2016.

Interventions

Clinicians were randomized to the bilateral, preconversation, communication-priming intervention (n = 65) or usual care (n = 67), with 249 patients assigned to the intervention and 288 to usual care.

Main Outcomes and Measures

The primary outcome was patient-reported occurrence of a goals-of-care conversation during a target outpatient visit. Secondary outcomes included clinician documentation of a goals-of-care conversation in the medical record and patient-reported quality of communication (Quality of Communication questionnaire [QOC]; 4-indicator latent construct) at 2 weeks, as well as patient assessments of goal-concordant care at 3 months and patient-reported symptoms of depression (8-item Patient Health Questionnaire; PHQ-8) and anxiety (7-item Generalized Anxiety Disorder survey; GAD-7) at 3 and 6 months. Analyses were clustered by clinician and adjusted for confounders.

Results

We enrolled 132 of 485 potentially eligible clinicians (27% participation; 71 women [53.8%]; mean [SD] age, 47.1 [9.6] years) and 537 of 917 eligible patients (59% participation; 256 women [47.7%]; mean [SD] age, 73.4 [12.7] years). The intervention was associated with a significant increase in a goals-of-care discussion at the target visit (74% vs 31%; P < .001) and increased medical record documentation (62% vs 17%; P < .001), as well as increased patient-rated quality of communication (4.6 vs 2.1; P = .01). Patient-assessed goal-concordant care did not increase significantly overall (70% vs 57%; P = .08) but did increase for patients with stable goals between 3-month follow-up and last prior assessment (73% vs 57%; P = .03). Symptoms of depression or anxiety were not different between groups at 3 or 6 months.

Conclusions and Relevance

This intervention increased the occurrence, documentation, and quality of goals-of-care communication during routine outpatient visits and increased goal-concordant care at 3 months among patients with stable goals, with no change in symptoms of anxiety or depression. Understanding the effect on subsequent health care delivery will require additional study.

Trial Registration

ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT01933789

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