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Decision aid helps families, clinicians communicate about care decisions
Date:5/17/2011

ATS 2011, DENVER Surrogate decision-makers faced with the difficult task of overseeing loved ones' medical care may find help thanks to a new decision aid aimed at patients with prolonged mechanical ventilation. According to a study conducted by researchers in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Washington who developed and tested the aid, surrogates reported the aid significantly improved the often daunting decision-making process.

The study results will be presented at the ATS 2011 International Conference in Denver.

The decision aid was developed specifically for surrogate decision makers of patients who require mechanical ventilation for extended periods, a condition known as prolonged mechanical ventilation (PMV). Each year, about 300,000 U.S. patients are placed on prolonged mechanical ventilation. About 50 percent of those patients die within a year, typically after spending 75 percent of their final days in health care facilities. These patients have healthcare costs exceeding $20 billion each year in the United States.

"For patients at risk for PMV, challenging decisions must be made about whether to continue a course of aggressive treatment or whether to emphasize comfort at the possible expense of survival," said study author Christopher Cox, MD, an assistant professor of medicine and co-director of the medical ICU at Duke University Medical Center. "The burden of life support decision-making rests on family members and other surrogate decision-makers because of patients' severe illnesses. However the quality of this decision-making process is severely deficient."

Dr. Cox said the communication deficit between clinicians and surrogates in the decision-making process has several causes, including difficulty explaining a complicated critical illness and its management options to surrogates, particularly in a multi-provider, shift-work environment.

"This poor communication quality leads to a dramatic degre
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Contact: Keely Savoie
ksavoie@thoracic.org
212-315-8620
American Thoracic Society
Source:Eurekalert

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