Assessment of goals of care in nursing home reduces hospitalization for patients with dementia


CLINICAL QUESTION: For patients with advanced dementia, does a goals-of-care intervention improve communication and care outcomes?

BACKGROUND: Patients with advanced dementia are frequently admitted from nursing homes for acute conditions. Prior research demonstrates deficits in documentation of advanced directives.

STUDY DESIGN: Single-blind cluster randomized trial.

SETTING: Twenty-two nursing homes in North Carolina.

SYNOPSIS: Three hundred and two patient/families enrolled. Intervention included video and print decision aids followed by a structured goals of care discussion with trained nursing home staff. Quality of communication results, the primary outcome, at 3 months were mixed. Family perception of communication with nursing home staff was better in the intervention. Family–health care provider concordance on primary goal of care and treatment consistent with preferences were not significantly different. By the end of the study at 9 months there was no difference in symptom control but some secondary outcomes were encouraging including greater completion of MOST advanced directives (35% vs. 16%; P = .05) and half as many hospital transfers. Multiple comparisons merits future verification of secondary outcome findings.

BOTTOM LINE: Goals of care discussions for patients with advanced dementia appears to reduce hospitalizations.

CITATIONS: Hanson LC, Zimmerman S, Song MK, et al. Effect of the goals of care intervention for advanced dementia: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Intern Med. 2017 Jan;177:24-31.

Dr. Cumbler is the associate chief of hospital medicine, Division of Hospital Medicine, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora.

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