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We aimed to explore multiple perspectives regarding barriers to and facilitators of advance care planning (ACP) among African Americans to identify similarities or differences that might have clinical implications.
Qualitative study with health disparities experts (n = 5), community members (n = 9), and seriously ill African American patients and caregivers (n = 11). Using template analysis, interviews were coded to identify intrapersonal, interpersonal, and systems-level themes in accordance with a social ecological framework.
Participants identified seven primary factors that influence ACP for African Americans: religion and spirituality; trust and mistrust; family relationships and experiences; patient-clinician relationships; prognostic communication, care preferences, and preparation and control. These influences echo those described in the existing literature; however, our data highlight consistent differences by group in the degree to which these factors positively or negatively affect ACP. Expert participants reinforced common themes from the literature, for example, that African Americans were not interested in prognostic information because of mistrust and religion. Seriously ill patients were more likely to express trust in their clinicians and to desire prognostic communication; they and community members expressed a desire to prepare for and control the end of life. Religious belief did not appear to negate these desires.
Significance of results
The literature on ACP in African Americans may not accurately reflect the experience of seriously ill African Americans. What are commonly understood as barriers to ACP may in fact not be. We propose reframing stereotypical barriers to ACP, such as religion and spirituality, or family, as cultural assets that should be engaged to enhance ACP. Although further research can inform best practices for engaging African American patients in ACP, findings suggest that respectful, rapport-building communication may facilitate ACP. Clinicians are encouraged to engage in early ACP using respectful and rapport building communication practices, including open-ended questions.
Most patients diagnosed with lung cancer present with advanced stage disease and have a poor chance of long-term survival. Despite the advantages of hospice care for lung cancer patients, many are enrolled late in the course of their illness or not at all. We sought to identify reasons for this pattern.
A list of perceived barriers to hospice enrollment was generated and used to create two self-administered surveys, one for physicians and one for caregivers. After focus group testing, the finalized instruments were mailed to physicians in South Carolina and to caregivers of lung cancer patients who died under hospice care with a local hospice between 2000 and 2004.
Fifty-three caregivers and 273 physicians responded to the survey. From the caregivers' perspectives, leading reasons for deferred hospice enrollment included patients' unanticipated rapid transition from well to sick and a belief that hospice means giving up hope. From the physicians' perspectives, impediments to earlier hospice enrollment included patients and caregivers overestimating survival from lung cancer and an (incorrect) assumption that patients need to be “DNR/DNI” prior to hospice enrollment.
Significance of results:
Lung cancer patients may benefit from earlier introduction to the concepts of hospice care and more education regarding prognosis so that an easier transition in goals of care could be achieved. A smaller proportion of lung cancer patients may benefit from earlier hospice enrollment.
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