Advancing Spiritual Care Through Research

Let Us Talk About It: Heart Failure Patients’ Preferences toward Discussions about Prognosis, Advance Care Planning, and Spiritual Support

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study is to describe preferences of patients with heart failure (HF) for having advance care planning (ACP) discussions with clinicians and to identify characteristics associated with those preferences. BACKGROUND: National guidelines call for having ACP discussions with patients with serious illnesses such as HF. Many patients with HF do not discuss ACP with their physician despite wanting to have them. METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional cohort study between July 2007 and November 2009 within HF clinics affiliated with a large, urban, academic medical center. Patients with New York Heart Association HF classes II and III were surveyed about whether they had or would like to have discussions with their clinician about what to expect in the future regarding their HF, prognosis, ACP, and their surrogate choice. RESULTS: Patients (n = 104) were on average 53 years old (standard deviation = 14.3; range: 21-84) and had Class II (57%) or Class III (43%) HF. Most patients had discussed what to expect in the future regarding HF (76.5%, 78/102), prognosis (68.0%, 68/100), surrogate choice (90.3%, 93/103), and ACP (46.5%, 47/101). Most of those who did not have these discussions would have liked to discuss expectations regarding their HF (87.5%, 21/24), prognosis (80.6%, 25/31), and ACP (59.6%, 31/52). Men were more likely than women to report having had discussions about their HF (83.6% vs. 62.9%; p = 0.02), prognosis (78.5% vs. 48.6%; p = 0.002), and ACP (56.1% vs. 28.6%; p = 0.01). On average younger patients were more likely to report having discussed what to expect regarding their HF (50 years vs. 59 years; p = 0.007), and to be asked about their spirituality (43 years vs. 56 years; p = 0.0001). DISCUSSION: Conforming to national guidelines, most patients with HF have discussed ACP with clinicians and most of those who have not, want to. Findings should embolden clinicians to routinely discuss ACP.