Goals of care communication and higher-value care for patients with advanced-stage cancer: A systematic review of the evidence

Patient Educ Couns. 2022 May;105(5):1138-1151. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2021.08.016. Epub 2021 Aug 27.


Context: Goals-of-care communication (GOCC) is recommended to increase the value of cancer care near the end of life (EOL).

Objectives: Conduct a systematic review of the evidence that GOCC is associated with higher-value care.

Methods: We searched PubMed, Scopus, Ovid MEDLINE, EMBASE, EMB Reviews, CINAHL, and PsycInfo from inception to July 2019. We analyzed the population,design, and results and the authors' definitions of GOCC. Risk of bias was assessed.

Results: Thirty-two articles were selected. Ten articles reported results from 8 interventions; 17 characterized participants' perspectives; and 5 were retrospective The topics, behaviors, timing, and anticipated outcomes of GOCC varied significantly and were indistinguishable from practices such as advance care planning. GOCC typically focused on treatment outcomes rather than patients' goals. Four of 5 interventions increased evidence of GOCC after clinician training. Only one reported improved patient outcomes.

Conclusion: No consensus exists about what GOCC entails. There is limited evidence that GOCC increases the value of EOL care.

Practice implications: Future studies should focus on how to engage patients in conversations about their personal goals and integrate their goals into care planning. Clinicians can encourage GOCC by explaining how patients' goals influence decisions especially as treatment options become limited.

Keywords: Cancer patients; Care goals; Communication; Communication behaviors; End of life; Goal-related communication; Goals of care; Physician-patient communication; Physician-patient concordance; Quality of care; Quality of life.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Advance Care Planning*
  • Communication
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Patient Care Planning
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Terminal Care* / methods