Background: Patients with severe COPD or chronic heart failure (CHF) are often confronted with decisions concerning life-sustaining treatments. The aim of this prospective, observational study was to assess life-sustaining treatment preferences, advance care planning, and the quality of end-of-life care communication in Dutch outpatients with clinically stable but severe COPD or CHF.
Methods: The following outcomes were assessed in outpatients with severe COPD (n = 105) or CHF (n = 80): life-sustaining treatment preferences (CPR and mechanical ventilation; Willingness to Accept Life-sustaining Treatment instrument), advance care planning, and quality of end-of-life care communication (Quality of Communication questionnaire).
Results: Most patients asserted that in their current health status, they would prefer CPR (COPD, 70.5%; CHF, 62.5%) and/or mechanical ventilation (COPD, 70.5%; CHF, 66.3%). Patients' treatment preferences were influenced by burden of treatment, outcome of treatment, and likelihood of outcome. Advance directives were discussed with the physician specialist by 5.9% of patients with COPD and 3.9% of patients with CHF. Patients rated quality of patient-physician end-of-life care communication as poor. Physicians rarely discussed prognosis, dying, and palliative care.
Conclusions: Despite the fact that patients are able to indicate their preferences regarding life-sustaining treatments, based on burden of treatment, outcome of treatment, and likelihood of outcome, these preferences are rarely discussed with their physician specialist. This study shows a need for advance care planning, taking into account the burden of treatment, outcome of treatment, and likelihood of outcome, in patients with severe COPD or CHF. Finally, the quality of patient-physician end-of-life care communication needs to improve.