Listening to Patients' Own Goals: A Key to Goals of Care Decisions in Cardiac Care

Can J Cardiol. 2020 Jul;36(7):1135-1138. doi: 10.1016/j.cjca.2020.04.020. Epub 2020 Apr 26.


Cardiology spans the spectrum of patient care from the stable outpatient to acute preterminal inpatient. This article provides a narrative account of challenges, learnings, and experiences that we have used as a means to reflect on our own goals of care (GOC) conversations. We detail experiential and evidence-based insights on identifying and overcoming common GOC discussion barriers and building frameworks for effectively addressing patient interests and values through the course of medical care. Existing practices around advance care planning result in GOC discussions being postponed in favour of task-focused medical care and physicians avoiding these discussions out of a perceived lack of time. Physicians struggle to be flexible with existing care plans and in an effort to respect patient autonomy sometimes inappropriately relegate care decisions solely onto patients and families. Instead, we suggest conceiving of the GOC process as involving multiple conversations, taking time to get to know a patient and their personal priorities, sharing a patient's expected medical course when having GOC discussions, admitting prognostic uncertainty when it exists, giving patients and families the space to adjust to these discussions and remaining flexible with plans as a patient's health course fluctuates. Furthermore, our approach stresses being decisive and proactive in providing GOC recommendations when properly equipped to do so and enables recognition and recourse for patient-physician goal misalignment. In conclusion, we stress the importance of advising a treatment course that is responsive to patient considerations via practical communication strategies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Advance Care Planning / organization & administration*
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Heart Failure / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Inpatients / psychology*
  • Patient Care Planning / standards*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Physicians / psychology*