BACKGROUND: Advance Care Planning (ACP) and its documentation, accessible to healthcare professionals regardless of where patients are staying, can improve palliative care. ACP is usually performed by trained facilitators. However, ACP conversations would be more tailored to a patient's specific situation if held by a patient's clinical healthcare team. This study assesses the feasibility of ACP by a patient's clinical healthcare team, and analyses the documented information including current and future problems within the palliative care domains.
METHODS: This multicentre study was conducted at the three Groningen Palliative Care Network hospitals in the Netherlands. Patients discharged from hospital with a terminal care indication received an ACP document from clinical staff (non-palliative care trained staff at hospitals I and II; specialist palliative care nurses at hospital III) after they had held ACP conversations. An anonymised copy of this ACP document was analysed. Documentation rates of patient and contact details were investigated, and documentation of current and future problems were analysed both quantitatively and qualitatively.
RESULTS: One hundred sixty ACP documents were received between April 2013 and December 2014, with numbers increasing for each consecutive 3-month time period. Advance directives were frequently documented (82%). Documentation rates of current problems in the social (24%), psychological (27%) and spiritual (16%) domains were low compared to physical problems (85%) at hospital I and II, but consistently high (> 85%) at hospital III. Of 545 documented anticipated problems, 92% were physical or care related in nature, 2% social, 5% psychological, and < 1% spiritual. Half of the anticipated non-physical problems originated from hospital III.
CONCLUSIONS: Hospital-initiated ACP documentation by a patient's clinical healthcare team is feasible: the number of documents received per time period increased throughout the study period, and overall, documentation rates were high. Nonetheless, symptom documentation predominantly regards physical symptoms. With the involvement of specialist palliative care nurses, psychological and spiritual problems are addressed more frequently. Whether palliative care education for non-palliative care experts will improve identification and documentation of non-physical problems remains to be investigated.