Advance care planning and palliative care in ACHD: the healthcare providers' perspective

Cardiol Young. 2020 Mar;30(3):402-408. doi: 10.1017/S1047951120000219. Epub 2020 Feb 14.


Background: Advance care planning and palliative care are gaining recognition as critical care components for adults with CHD, yet these often do not occur. Study objectives were to evaluate ACHD providers' 1) comfort managing patients' physical symptoms and psychosocial needs and 2) perspectives on the decision/timing of advance care planning initiation and palliative care referral.

Methods: Cross-sectional study of ACHD providers. Six hypothetical patients were described in case format, followed by questions regarding provider comfort managing symptoms, initiating advance care planning, and palliative care referral.

Results: Fifty providers (72% physicians) completed surveys. Participants reported low levels of personal palliative care knowledge, without variation by gender, years in practice, or prior palliative care training. Providers appeared more comfortable managing physical symptoms and discussing prognosis than addressing psychosocial needs. Providers recognised advance directives as important, although the percentage who would initiate advance care planning ranged from 18 to 67% and referral to palliative care from 14 to 32%. Barriers and facilitators to discussing advance care planning with patients were identified. Over 20% indicated that advance care planning and end-of-life discussions are best initiated with the development of at least one life-threatening complication/hospitalisation.

Conclusions: Providers noted high value in advance directives yet were themselves less likely to initiate advance care planning or refer to palliative care. This raises the critical questions of when, how, and by whom discussion of these important matters should be initiated and how best to support ACHD providers in these endeavours.

Keywords: ACHD; advance care planning; healthcare providers; palliative care.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Advance Care Planning*
  • Age Factors
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Communication
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Personnel / psychology
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / diagnosis
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Palliative Care*
  • Patient Preference
  • Physician's Role*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Prognosis
  • Referral and Consultation