Specialist respiratory physicians' attitudes to and practice of advance care planning in COPD. A pilot study

Respir Med. 2014 Jun;108(6):935-9. doi: 10.1016/j.rmed.2013.12.002. Epub 2013 Dec 19.


Background: Advance care planning (ACP) is increasingly recognised as important in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Specialist respiratory physicians (RPs) are crucial in enabling ACP in patients with COPD. Accordingly, understanding their practice and attitudes regarding ACP is important.

Methods: We developed and piloted a survey to assess RPs practices, attitudes and educational needs in ACP.

Results: The response rate was 41% (17/41). The instrument was brief and acceptable to participants. Among respondents, 13% reported they had discussed ACP with "most" of their patients; 31% with "about half"; 50% with "a few" and 6% with "none or almost none". Although 57% of respondents preferred outpatient discussions, most discussions occurred as inpatients. Diagnosis, purpose of treatment and incurability of COPD were reported as commonly discussed but the appointment of a health care proxy, the patients' values and goals, and palliative care options were rarely addressed. Reported barriers to ACP included: difficulty prognosticating; time constraints; and perceived patient reticence. Facilitators included increasing patient frailty and patient willingness to discuss. Most respondents reported receiving some formal training in ACP and refined skills by observing colleagues. Many were interested in further educational opportunities.

Conclusion: This pilot found the new instrument was acceptable. Findings suggest that ACP discussions are infrequent with the majority occurring in the inpatient setting, with key elements omitted. Participants generally had favourable attitudes to ACP and recognised for the need for ongoing training. These early findings require further investigation.

Keywords: Advance care planning (ACP); Attitudes; Chronic disease; Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); Physicians; Survey.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Advance Care Planning*
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Pilot Projects
  • Pulmonary Medicine*