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1 - 14 of 14

This WebM&M describes a 78-year-old veteran with dementia-associated aggressive behavior who was hospitalized multiple times over several months for hypoxic respiratory failure and atrial fibrillation before being discharged to a skilled nursing facility. The advanced care planning team, in consultation with palliative care and ethics experts, determined that transition to hospice was appropriate. However, these recommendations were verbally communicated and not documented in the chart.

This Spotlight Case describes an older man incidentally diagnosed with prostate cancer, with metastases to the bone. He was seen in clinic one month after that discharge, without family present, and scheduled for outpatient biopsy. He showed up to the biopsy without adequate preparation and so it was rescheduled. He did not show up to the following four oncology appointments.

A 77-year-old man was diagnosed with a rectal mass. After discussing goals of care with an oncologist, he declined surgical intervention and underwent targeted radiotherapy before being lost to follow up. The patient subsequently presented to Emergency Department after a fall at home and was found to have new metastatic lesions in both lungs and numerous enhancing lesions in the brain. Further discussions of the goals of care revealed that the patient desired to focus on comfort and on maintaining independence for as long as possible. The inpatient hospice team discussed the potential role

Pestian T, Thienprayoon R, Grossoehme D, et al. Pediatr Qual Saf. 2020;5:e328.
The authors used qualitative data to evaluate parental perspectives of quality in pediatric home-based hospice and palliative care (HBHPC) programs, and how parents define “safe care” in the home. Thematic analysis identified eight domains of safety prioritized by patients, including an emphasis on the safety of the physical environment, medication safety, maintaining comfort and preventing harm, and trust in the HBHPC caregivers.
Gallagher R, Passmore MJ, Baldwin C. Med Hypotheses. 2020;142:109727.
The authors of this article suggest that offering palliative care services earlier should be considered a patient safety issue. They highlight three cases in which patients in Canada requested medical assistance in dying (MAiD). The patients in two of the cases were never offered palliative care services, and this could be considered a medical error – had they been offered palliative care services, they may have changed their mind about MAiD, as did the patient in the third case study.
Mirarchi FL, Juhasz K, Cooney TE, et al. J Patient Saf. 2019;15:230-237.
This single-center study found that Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) orders and Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLSTs) created at hospital admission often do not reflect the true wishes of patients and their caregivers. When queried by study staff, 44% of patients expressed wishes for life-sustaining treatment that differed from their designated code status; this resulted in revocation of the DNR order in more than one-third of patients with a discrepancy. A prior study argued that inaccurate documentation of patient's wishes for end-of-life care should be considered a medical error.
Hospitalized in the ICU after cardiac arrest and loss of cardiac function for 15 minutes, an older man experienced worsening neurological status. After extensive discussions about goals of care, the family agreed to a DNR order. Over the next week, his condition declined, and the family decided to transition to comfort measures. Orders were written but shortly thereafter, the family spoke with the ICU resident and reversed their decision. The resident canceled the terminal extubation orders without communicating the order change to other team members.
Found unconscious at home, an older woman with advanced dementia and end-stage renal disease was resuscitated in the field and taken to the emergency department, where she was registered with a temporary medical record number. Once her actual medical record was identified, her DNR/DNI status was identified. After recognizing this and having discussions with the family, she was transitioned to comfort care and died a few hours later. Two months later, the clinic called the patient's home with an appointment reminder.
Kahn JS. JAMA. 2017;318.
End-of-life care can be difficult for patients, families, and the care team. This commentary offers insights from a physician's experience with a conversation that was psychologically detrimental to a patient and his family. The author suggests that focusing on the empathetic relationship with patients and families can provide the support needed to care for the patient while exercising judgement and engaging in shared decision making about next steps.
When a 94-year-old woman presented for routine primary care, the intern caring for her discovered that the patient's code status was "full code" and that there was no documentation of discussions regarding her wishes for end-of-life care. The intern and his supervisor engaged the patient in an advance care planning discussion, during which she clarified that she would not want resuscitation or life-prolonging measures.
Kiesewetter I, Schulz C, Bausewein C, et al. BMC Palliat Care. 2016;15:75.
Adverse events in palliative care differ from those in other environments. This qualitative interview study of patients who received palliative care identified errors specific to this setting, including deviation from a patient's advance directive and error in prognosis. A recent WebM&M commentary discussed challenges to implementing advance directives.
Heyland DK, Barwich D, Pichora D, et al. JAMA Intern Med. 2013;173:778-787.
Advance care planning (ACP) has become an increasingly utilized process for exploring and communicating patients' preferences for end-of-life care. This multicenter audit of ACP practices across 12 hospitals in Canada found that even when patients and families have completed ACP, inpatient health care providers are not discussing these preferences during hospitalization nor are they documenting these decisions in the medical record. When there was chart documentation, it did not match the patients' expressed wishes more than two-thirds of the time. The majority of audited cases found that patients were prescribed more aggressive care than they would have preferred. An accompanying editorial argues that these types of "silent misdiagnoses" should be considered medical errors, noting that discussions about code status and ACP are "every bit as important to patient safety as a central line placement or a surgical procedure." A previous AHRQ WebM&M commentary discussed ACP and other tools for expressing end-of-life preferences.
Following hernia repair surgery, an elderly woman is incidentally found to have a mass in her neck. Expecting the worst, the treating physician recommends palliative care and withdrawal of mechanical ventilation, before biopsy results are in.