Effectiveness of a Question Prompt List Intervention for Older Patients Considering Major Surgery: A Multisite Randomized Clinical Trial

JAMA Surg. 2020 Jan 1;155(1):6-13. doi: 10.1001/jamasurg.2019.3778.


Importance: Poor preoperative communication can have serious consequences, including unwanted treatment and postoperative conflict.

Objective: To compare the effectiveness of a question prompt list (QPL) intervention vs usual care on patient engagement and well-being among older patients considering major surgery.

Design, setting, and participants: This randomized clinical trial used a stepped-wedge design to randomly assign patients to a QPL intervention (n = 223) or usual care (n = 223) based on the timing of their visit with 1 of 40 surgeons at 5 US study sites. Patients were 60 years or older with at least 1 comorbidity and an oncologic or vascular (cardiac, neurosurgical, or peripheral vascular) problem that could be treated with major surgery. Family members were also enrolled (n = 263). The study dates were June 2016 to November 2018. Data analysis was by intent-to-treat.

Interventions: A brochure of 11 questions to ask a surgeon developed by patient and family stakeholders plus an endorsement letter from the surgeon were sent to patients before their outpatient visit.

Main outcomes and measures: Primary patient engagement outcomes included the number and type of questions asked during the surgical visit and patient-reported Perceived Efficacy in Patient-Physician Interactions scale assessed after the surgical visit. Primary well-being outcomes included (1) the difference between patient's Measure Yourself Concerns and Well-being (MYCaW) scores reported after surgery and scores reported after the surgical visit and (2) treatment-associated regret at 6 to 8 weeks after surgery.

Results: Of 1319 patients eligible for participation, 223 were randomized to the QPL intervention and 223 to usual care. Among 446 patients, the mean (SD) age was 71.8 (7.1) years, and 249 (55.8%) were male. On intent-to-treat analysis, there was no significant difference between the QPL intervention and usual care for all patient-reported primary outcomes. The difference in MYCaW scores for family members was greater in usual care (effect estimate, 1.51; 95% CI, 0.28-2.74; P = .008). When the QPL intervention group was restricted to patients with clear evidence they reviewed the QPL, a nonsignificant increase in the effect size was observed for questions about options (odds ratio, 1.88; 95% CI, 0.81-4.35; P = .16), expectations (odds ratio, 1.59; 95% CI, 0.67-3.80; P = .29), and risks (odds ratio, 2.41; 95% CI, 1.04-5.59; P = .04) (nominal α = .01).

Conclusions and relevance: The results of this study were null related to primary patient engagement and well-being outcomes. Changing patient-physician communication may be difficult without addressing clinician communication directly.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT02623335.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Communication
  • Family
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pamphlets*
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Patient Participation*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Preoperative Care*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • United States

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02623335