Public Perceptions of Advance Care Planning, Palliative Care, and Hospice: A Scoping Review

J Palliat Med. 2020 Jul 2. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2020.0111. Online ahead of print.


Background: Although access to advance care planning (ACP), palliative care, and hospice has increased, public attitudes may still be barriers to their optimal use. Purpose: To synthesize empirical research from disparate sources that describes public perceptions of ACP, palliative care, and hospice in ways that could inform public messaging. Data Sources: Searches of PubMed and other databases were made from January 2011 to January 2020. Study Selection: Studies reporting survey or interview data with the public that asked specifically about awareness and attitudes toward ACP, palliative care, or hospice were included. Data Extraction and Synthesis: Two reviewers independently screened citations, read full texts, and performed data abstraction. Twelve studies met inclusion criteria and included >9800 participants. For ACP, 80% to 90% of participants reported awareness, and a similar proportion considered it important, but only 10% to 41% reported having named a proxy or completed a written document. For palliative care, 66% to 71% of participants reported no awareness of palliative care, and those who reported awareness often conflated it with end-of-life care. However, after being prompted with a tested definition, 95% rated palliative care favorably. For hospice, 86% of participants reported awareness and 70% to 91% rated it favorably, although 37% held significant misconceptions. Limitations: A limited number of studies met inclusion criteria, and some were published in nonpeer reviewed sources. The studies reflect public perceptions pre-COVID-19. Conclusion: Consumer perceptions of ACP, palliative care, and hospice each have a distinct profile of awareness, perceptions of importance, and reports of action taking, and these profiles represent three different challenges for public messaging.

Keywords: advance care planning; hospice; palliative care; perceptions; public.