Background: Advance Care Planning (ACP) is a systematic approach to ensure that effective advance directives (ADs) are developed and respected. We studied the effects of implementing a regional ACP program in Germany.
Methods: In a prospective, inter-regionally controlled trial focusing on nursing homes (n/hs), we compared the number, relevance and validity of new ADs completed in the intervention region versus the control region. Intervention n/h residents and their families were offered professional facilitation including standardized documentation.
Results: Data from 136 residents of three intervention n/hs were compared with data from 439 residents of 10 control n/hs over a study period of 16.5 months. In the intervention region, 49 (36.0%) participating residents completed a new AD over the period of the study, compared to 18 (4.1%) in the control region; these ADs included 30 ADs by proxy in the intervention region versus 10 in the control region. Proxies were designated in 94.7% versus 50.0% of cases, the AD was signed by a physician in 93.9% versus 16.7%, and an emergency order was included in 98.0% versus 44.4%. Resuscitation status was addressed in 95.9% versus 38.9% of cases (p<0.01 for all of the differences mentioned above). In the intervention region, new ADs were preceded by an average of 2.5 facilitated conversations (range, 2–5) with a mean total duration of 100 minutes (range, 60–240 minutes).
Conclusion: The implementation of an ACP program in German nursing homes led, much more frequently than previously reported, to the creation of advance directives with potential relevance to medical decision-making. Future research should assess the effect of such programs on clinical and structural outcomes.