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J Gen Intern Med. 2009 Sep;24(9):1023-8. doi: 10.1007/s11606-009-1065-y. Epub 2009 Jul 25.

Physicians' experience with surrogate decision making for hospitalized adults.

Author information

1
Indiana University Center for Aging Research, Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA. atorke@iupui.edu

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Hospitalized patients frequently lack decision-making ability, yet little is known about physicians' approaches to surrogate decision making.

OBJECTIVE:

To describe physicians' experiences with surrogate communication and decision making for hospitalized adults.

DESIGN:

Cross-sectional written survey.

PARTICIPANTS:

Two hundred eighty-one physicians who recently cared for adult inpatients in one academic and two community hospitals.

MEASUREMENTS:

Key features of physicians' most recent surrogate decision-making experience, including the nature of the decision, the physician's reaction, physician-surrogate communication and physician-surrogate agreement about the best course of action.

RESULTS:

Nearly three fourths of physicians (73%, n = 206) had made a major decision with a surrogate during the past month. Although nearly all patients (90%) had a surrogate, physicians reported trouble contacting the surrogate in 21% of cases. Conflict was rare (5%), and a majority of physicians agreed with surrogates about the medical facts (77%), prognosis (72%) and best course of action (65%). After adjustment for patient, physician and decision characteristics, agreement about the best course of action was more common among surrogates for older patients [prevalence ratio (PR) = 1.17 for each decade; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.02-1.31], ICU patients (PR = 1.40; CI 1.14-1.51) and patients who had previously discussed their wishes (PR = 1.60; CI 1.30-1.76), and less common when surrogates were difficult to contact (PR = 0.59; CI 0.29-0.92) or when the physician self-identified as Asian (PR = 0.60; CI 0.30-0.94).

CONCLUSION:

Surrogate decision making is common among hospitalized adults. Physician-surrogate decision making may be enhanced if patients discuss their preferences in advance and if physician contact with surrogate decision makers is facilitated.

PMID:
19633896
PMCID:
PMC2726893
DOI:
10.1007/s11606-009-1065-y
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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