Development and Feasibility of a Structured Goals of Care Communication Guide

Published in: Journal of Palliative Medicine (Epub April 2017, ahead of print). doi: 10.1089/jpm.2016.0383

by David B. Bekelman, Sangeeta C. Ahluwalia, Anne Walling, Rebecca Sudore

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Access further information on this document at Journal of Palliative Medicine (Epub April 2017

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Discussing goals of care and advance care planning is beneficial, yet how to best integrate goals of care communication into clinical care remains unclear.


To develop and determine the feasibility of a structured goals of care communication guide for nurses and social workers.


Developmental study with providers in an academic and Veterans Affairs (VA) health system (n = 42) and subsequent pilot testing with patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or heart failure (n = 15) and informal caregivers (n = 4) in a VA health system. During pilot testing, the communication guide was administered, followed by semistructured, open-ended questions about the content and process of communication. Changes to the guide were made iteratively, and subsequent piloting occurred until no additional changes emerged.


Provider and patient feedback to the communication guide.


Iterative input resulted in the goals of care communication guide. The guide included questions to elicit patient understanding of and attitudes toward the future of illness, clarify values and goals, identify end-of-life preferences, and agree on a follow-up plan. Revisions to guide content and phrasing continued during development and pilot testing. In pilot testing, patients validated the importance of the topic; none said the goals of care discussion should not be conducted. Patients and informal caregivers liked the final guide length ([approximately] 30 minutes), felt it flowed well, and was clear.


In this developmental and pilot study, a structured goals of care communication guide was iteratively designed, implemented by nurses and social workers, and was feasible based on administration time and acceptability by patients and providers.

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