How are non-numerical prognostic statements interpreted and are they subject to positive bias?

Frank, clear communication with family members of terminally ill or incapacitated patients has important implications for well-being, satisfaction with care and sound decision-making | BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care

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Objectives: Numerical prognostic statements, particularly more negative ones, have been found to be interpreted in a positively biased manner. Less precise non-numerical statements, preferred by physicians, and particularly statements using threatening terms (dying vs surviving) may be even more subject to such biases.

Methods: Participants (N=200) read non-numerical prognostic statements framed in terms of dying or surviving and indicated their interpretation of likelihood of survival.

Results: Even the most extreme statements were not interpreted to indicate 100% likelihood of surviving or dying, (eg, they will definitely survive, 92.77%). The poorness of prognoses was associated with more optimistically biased interpretations but this was not, however, affected by the wording of the prognoses in terms of dying versus surviving.

Conclusions: The findings illuminate the ways in which commonly used non-numeric language may be understood in numeric terms during prognostic discussions and provide further evidence of recipients’ propensity for positive bias.

Full reference: Moyer, A. et al. (2017) How are non-numerical prognostic statements interpreted and are they subject to positive bias? 

Passed away, kicked the bucket, pushing up daisies – the many ways we don’t talk about death

Fear of talking about dying ‘leading to thousands of traumatic hospital deaths’

Cancer charity says there is a ‘crisis of communication’ in UK over dying | The Independent

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Thousands of cancer patients would prefer to die at home but are forced to suffer “traumatic” deaths in hospital, according to Macmillan. Taboos around talking about death are fuelling a “crisis of communication” in the UK that prevents people from planning their final days, warned the organisation in a new report.

Research by the charity found that while 38 per cent of people who die from cancer die in hospital, just one per cent would choose to do so, with 64 per cent saying they wanted to die at home.

Read the news article here

Palliative Care Triggers in the Intensive Care Unit

Jones, B. & Bernstein, C. (2017) Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing. 36(2) pp. 106–109

There is growing recognition that electronic medical record triggers in the intensive care unit (ICU) have led to an increase in palliative care consultations. One suburban health care system adopted triggers unique to their culture and setting in a pilot study and saw an increase in palliative consultations in the ICU. Implementing triggers is often a complex and multifaceted process to adopt. This review shares the steps from concept to implementation of establishing palliative prompts in 1 ICU within an integrated health care system.

Read the abstract here

How nurses support families of intensive care patients towards the end of life

Families of people dying in intensive care need to receive personalised communication and ongoing support, and be involved in the dying process | NIHR

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Researchers gathered evidence on how nurses care for patients and their families in intensive care when life-sustaining treatment is withdrawn. The included studies explored the care of the family before, during and after the process. Most of the studies in this small, mixed methods review were qualitative.

Reviewers identified three main ways, or themes, in which families are supported. First, information and good communication, such as the focus on careful use of language, was seen commonly. Second, by careful management of treatment withdrawal itself, for example by clarifying the gradual change expected when medically focussed life-sustaining treatments are withdrawn and family centred end-of-life care begins. Lastly they described a common focus on making the nursing contribution more visible, such as using techniques to build lasting memories for families.

Read the full overview here

Increasing the number of patients receiving information about transition to end-of-life care

Martinsson, L. et al. (2016) BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care. 6(4) pp. 452-458

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Image source: Rowena Dugdale – Wellcome Images // CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Introduction: Honest prognostication and information for patients are important parts of end-of-life care. This study examined whether an educational intervention could increase the proportion of patients who received information about the transition to end-of-life (ITEOL care).

Method: Two municipalities (in charge of nursing homes) and two hospitals were randomised to receive an interactive half-day course about ITEOL for physicians and nurses. The proportion of patients who received ITEOL was measured with data from the Swedish Register of Palliative Care (SRPC). Patients were only included if they died an expected death and maintained their ability to express their will until days or hours before their death. Four hospitals and four municipalities were assigned controls, matched by hospital size, population and proportion of patients receiving ITEOL at baseline.

Results:The proportion of patients in the intervention group who received ITEOL increased from 35.1% (during a 6-month period before the intervention) to 42% (during a 6-month period after the intervention). The proportion in the control group increased from 30.4% to 33.7%. The effect of the intervention was significant (p=0.005) in a multivariable model adjusted for time, age, gender and cause of death.

Conclusion: More patients at end-of-life received ITEOL after an educative half-day intervention directed to physicians and nurses.

Read the full article here

Parents’ experience of a follow-up meeting after a child’s death in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit

Brink, H.L. et al. Intensive and Critical Care Nursing. Published online: 12 August 2016

Objective: ‘To identify parents’ experience of a follow up meeting and to explore whether the conversation was adequate to meet the needs of parents for a follow-up after their child’s death in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).

Design and setting: Qualitative method utilising semi-structured interviews with six pairs of parents 2–12 weeks after the follow-up conversation. The interviews were held in the parents’ homes at their request. Data were analysed using a qualitative, descriptive approach and thematic analysis.

Findings: Four main themes emerged: (i) the way back to the PICU; (ii) framework; (iii) relations and (iv) closure.

Conclusion: The parents expressed nervousness before the meeting, but were all pleased to have participated in these follow-up meetings. The parents found it meaningful that the follow-up meeting was interdisciplinary, since the parents could have answers to their questions both about treatment and care. It was important that the staff involved in the follow-up meeting were those who had been present through the hospitalisation and at the time of the child’s death. Parents experienced the follow-up meeting as being a closure of the course in the PICU, regardless the length of the hospitalisation.

Read the abstract here