Study: Physicians' Documentation of Patients' End-of-Life Wishes is Poor

Communication about end-of-life care between healthcare providers and patients is inadequate, according to a study in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Researchers conducted in-person questionnaires of elderly patients who were at high risk of dying in the next six months and their family members. The researchers compared responses about advance care planning with physicians' documentation of patient preferences.

Before hospitalization, 76.3 percent of patients had thought about end-of-life care, 47.9 percent had completed an advance care plan and 73.3 percent had formally named a surrogate decision-maker for healthcare.

Only 30.3 percent of patients who had discussed their end-of-life care wishes did so with a family physician, and 55.3 percent with any member of the healthcare team. In addition, agreement between patients' expressed preferences and medical record documentation was 30.2 percent.

"Efforts to reduce this significant medical error of omission are warranted," the authors concluded.

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