Adherence and Concordance between Serious Illness Care Planning Conversations and Oncology Clinician Documentation among Patients with Advanced Cancer

Olaf P. Geerse*, Daniela J. Lamas, Rachelle E. Bernacki, Justin J. Sanders, Joanna Paladino, Annette J. Berendsen, Thijo J. N. Hiltermann, Charlotta Lindvall, Erik K. Fromme, Susan D. Block

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background:Serious illness conversations are part of advance care planning (ACP) and focus on prognosis, values, and goals in patients who are seriously ill. To be maximally effective, such conversations must be documented accurately and be easily accessible. Objectives:The two coprimary objectives of the study were to assess concordance between written documentation and recorded audiotaped conversations, and to evaluate adherence to the Serious Illness Conversation Guide questions. Methods:Data were obtained as part of a trial in patients with advanced cancer. Clinicians were trained to use a guide to conduct and document serious illness conversations. Conversations were audiotaped. Two researchers independently compared audiorecordings with the corresponding documentation in an electronic health record (EHR) template and free-text progress notes, and rated the degree of concordance and adherence. Results:We reviewed a total of 25 audiorecordings. Clinicians addressed 87% of the conversation guide elements. Prognosis was discussed least frequently, only in 55% of the patients who wanted that information. Documentation was fully concordant with the conversation 43% of the time. Concordance was best when documenting family matters and goals, and least frequently concordant when documenting prognostic communication. Most conversations (64%) were documented in the template, a minority (28%) only in progress notes and two conversations (8%) were not documented. Concordance was better when the template was used (62% vs. 28%). Conclusion:Clinicians adhered well to the conversation guide. However, key information elicited was documented and fully concordant less than half the time. Greater concordance was observed when clinicians used a prespecified template. The combined use of a guide and EHR template holds promise for ACP conversations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-62
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Palliative Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22-Jun-2020


  • advance care planning
  • documentation
  • electronic health record
  • neoplasms

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