Assessment of Discordance Between Surrogate Care Goals and Medical Treatment Provided to Older Adults With Serious Illness

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Importance: An important aspect of high-quality care is ensuring that treatments are in alignment with patient or surrogate decision-maker goals. Treatment discordant with patient goals has been shown to increase medical costs and prolong end-of-life difficulties.

Objectives: To evaluate discordance between surrogate decision-maker goals of care and medical orders and treatments provided to hospitalized, incapacitated older patients.

Design, setting, and participants: This prospective cohort study included 363 patient-surrogate dyads. Patients were 65 years or older and faced at least 1 major medical decision in the medical and medical intensive care unit services in 3 tertiary care hospitals in an urban Midwestern area. Data were collected from April 27, 2012, through July 10, 2015, and analyzed from October 5, 2018, to December 5, 2019.

Main outcomes and measures: Each surrogate's preferred goal of care was determined via interview during initial hospitalization and 6 to 8 weeks after discharge. Surrogates were asked to select the goal of care for the patient from 3 options: comfort-focused care, life-sustaining treatment, or an intermediate option. To assess discordance, the preferred goal of care as determined by the surrogate was compared with data from medical record review outlining the medical treatment received during the target hospitalization.

Results: A total of 363 dyads consisting of patients (223 women [61.4%]; mean [SD] age, 81.8 [8.3] years) and their surrogates (257 women [70.8%]; mean [SD] age, 58.3 [11.2] years) were included in the analysis. One hundred sixty-nine patients (46.6%) received at least 1 medical treatment discordant from their surrogate's identified goals of care. The most common type of discordance involved full-code orders for patients with a goal of comfort (n = 41) or an intermediate option (n = 93). More frequent in-person contact between surrogate and patient (adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 0.43; 95% CI, 0.23-0.82), patient residence in an institution (AOR, 0.44; 95% CI, 0.23-0.82), and surrogate-rated quality of communication (AOR, 0.98; 95% CI, 0.96-0.99) were associated with lower discordance. Surrogate marital status (AOR for single vs married, 1.92; 95% CI, 1.01-3.66), number of family members involved in decisions (AOR for ≥2 vs 0-1, 1.84; 95% CI, 1.05-3.21), and religious affiliation (AOR for none vs any, 4.87; 95% CI, 1.12-21.09) were associated with higher discordance.

Conclusions and relevance: This study found that discordance between surrogate goals of care and medical treatments for hospitalized, incapacitated patients was common. Communication quality is a modifiable factor associated with discordance that may be an avenue for future interventions.

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Comer, A. R., Hickman, S. E., Slaven, J. E., Monahan, P. O., Sachs, G. A., Wocial, L. D., Burke, E. S., & Torke, A. M. (2020). Assessment of Discordance Between Surrogate Care Goals and Medical Treatment Provided to Older Adults With Serious Illness. JAMA network open, 3(5), e205179.
JAMA Network Open
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