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Asia's first national advance care planning (ACP) program was established in Singapore in 2011 to enhance patient autonomy and self-determination in end-of-life (EoL) care decision-making. However, no known study has examined the extent to which ACP in Singapore successfully met its aims. The purpose of the current study was to examine the attitudes of local healthcare professionals on patients’ autonomy in decision-making at the EoL since they strongly influence the extent to which patient and family wishes are fulfilled.
Guided by the Interpretive-Systemic Framework and Proctor's conceptual taxonomy of implementation research outcomes, an interview guide was developed. Inquiries focused on healthcare professionals’ attitudes towards ACP, their clinical experiences working with patients and families, and their views on program effectiveness. Sixty-three physicians, nurses, medical social workers, and designated ACP coordinators who were actively engaged in ACP facilitation were recruited from seven major hospitals and specialist centers in Singapore through purposive sampling. Twelve interpretive-systemic focus groups were conducted, recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using a thematic analysis.
The extent to which patients in Singapore can exert autonomy in EoL care decision-making is influenced by five themes: (i) collusion over truth-telling to patient, (ii) deferment of autonomy by patients, (iii) negotiating patient self-determination, (iv) relational autonomy as the gold standard and (v) barriers to realization of patient choices.
Significance of results
Healthcare practitioners in Asian communities must align themselves with the values and needs of patients and their family and jointly make decisions that are consistent and congruent with the values of patients and their families. Sensitivity towards such cross-cultural practices is key to enhancing ACP awareness, discourse, and acceptability in Asian communities.
To provide an overview of the current state of research of advance care planning (ACP), highlighting most studied topics, publication time, quality of studies and reported outcomes, and to identify gaps to improve ACP receptivity, utilization, implementation, and outcomes.
Cochrane methodology for conducting overviews of systematic reviews. Study quality was assessed using a modified version of the Assessing the Methodological Quality of Systematic Reviews tool. The following databases were searched from inception to April 2017: MEDLINE, EBM Reviews, Cochrane Reviews, CINAHL, Global Health, PsycINFO, and EMBASE. Searches were supplemented with gray literature and manual searches.
Eighty systematic reviews, covering 1,662 single articles, show that ACP-related research focuses on nine main topics: (1) ACP as part of end-of-life or palliative care interventions, (2) care decision-making; (3) communication strategies; (4) factors influencing ACP implementation; (5) ACP for specific patient groups, (6) ACP effectiveness; (7) ACP experiences; (8) ACP cost; and (9) ACP outcome measures. The majority of this research was published since 2014, its quality ranges from moderate to low, and reports on documentation, concordance, preferences, and resource utilization outcomes.
Significance of results
Despite the surge of ACP research, there are major knowledge gaps about ACP initiation, timeliness, optimal content, and impact because of the low quality and fragmentation of the available evidence. Research has mostly focused on discrete aspects within ACP instead of using a holistic evaluative approach that takes into account its intricate working mechanisms, the effects of systems and contexts, and the impacts on multilevel stakeholders. Higher quality studies and innovative interventions are needed to develop effective ACP programs and address research gaps.
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