Challenges in clarifying goals of care in patients with advanced heart failure

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Purpose of review

Patients with advanced heart failure require communication about goals of care, yet many challenges exist, leaving it suboptimal. High mortality rates and advances in the use of life-sustaining technology further complicate communication and underscore the urgency to understand and address these challenges. This review highlights current research with a view to informing future research and practice to improve goals of care communication.

Recent findings

Clinicians view patient and family barriers as more impactful than clinician and system factors in impeding goals of care discussions. Knowledge gaps about life-sustaining technology challenge timely goals of care discussions. Complex, nurse-led interventions that activate patient, clinician and care systems and video-decision aids about life-sustaining technology may reduce barriers and facilitate goals of care communication.


Clinicians require relational skills in facilitating goals of care communication with diverse patients and families with heart failure knowledge gaps, who may be experiencing stress and discord. Future research should explore the dynamics of goals of care communication in real-time from patient, family and clinician perspectives, to inform development of upstream and complex interventions that optimize communication. Further testing of interventions is needed in and across community and hospital settings.

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