Difficult conversations and chronic heart failure: do you talk the talk or walk the walk?

Curr Opin Support Palliat Care. 2007 Dec;1(4):274-8. doi: 10.1097/SPC.0b013e3282f3475d.


Purpose of review: Effective communication is critical for palliative and supportive care in heart failure. This article contains a review of available information to assist clinicians in undertaking discussions regarding prognosis, treatment decisions and advance care planning.

Recent findings: Emerging from a range of studies at the end of life is that patients and their families appreciate honesty and do not want to be abandoned by healthcare providers. Further, the receptivity of patients and their carers to information is highly variable, underscoring the importance of an individualized approach.

Summary: When having these difficult conversations, clinicians need to assess the individual's need and wishes for information as well as their social and cultural background. They also need to consider the setting, timing and content of the discussion, as well as strategies to promote coping and adjustment. Most importantly, patients need a treatment plan to address palliative and supportive care needs to be implemented at the time of breaking this bad news, so that they and their families do not feel abandoned. Learning effective communication skills, implementing strategies for debriefing and the fostering of a team approach, may minimize burden on health providers and improve palliative and supportive care for people with heart failure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Death
  • Chronic Disease
  • Communication*
  • Heart Failure / diagnosis
  • Heart Failure / psychology
  • Heart Failure / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Palliative Care / methods*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Truth Disclosure