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Published October 15, 2020

19 Evidence-Based Benefits of Advance Care Planning

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Advance care planning (ACP) is an ongoing conversation that involves shared decision making to clarify and document – through an advance directive – an individual’s wishes, preferences, and goals regarding future medical care. This comprehensive process is critically important to ensuring patients receive the medical care they want in the event they lose the capacity to make their own decisions. Although advance care planning and completion of an advance directive can bridge the gap between the medical care patients want and the care they receive, a recent study found that two-thirds of U.S. adults do not have an advance directive.

Not only does ACP enable patients and their families to make informed healthcare decisions, it also supports the delivery of high quality care and more effective utilization of healthcare services. Studies have also shown that advance care planning improves quality of care and patient outcomes.

Here are nineteen evidence-based benefits of ACP for healthcare systems, healthcare professionals, patients, and their families:

  1. Enables healthcare professionals to conduct structured, meaningful conversations with patients about their wishes and preferences regarding treatment goals, preferences, and location of care1
  2. Promotes patient-centered care by focusing on the patients’ personal preferences about their medical care and treatments2
  3. Helps ensure that patients receive care that is consistent with their preferences3
  4. Raises the likelihood that healthcare providers and families understand and comply with a patient’s preferences for medical care when the patient lacks decision-making capacity4,5
  5. Increases the probability that patients with life-limiting illnesses can die in their preferred place, such as their home6
  6. Allows healthcare professionals and caregivers to proactively arrange for patients near end of life to remain at home, in a nursing home, or in a hospice facility rather than going to a hospital6,7
  7. Reduces the decisional burden of families as to whether they are making decisions that are consistent with the preferences of a loved one3
  8. Improves the bereavement experience of families by reducing stress, anxiety, and depression after a loved one’s death8,9
  9. Enhances families’ satisfaction with end-of-life care and understanding of what to expect during a loved one’s dying process10,11
  10. May reduce moral distress among critical care nurses12
  11. Positively impacts quality of life and end-of-life care by preventing unwanted hospitalizations and increasing the utilization of palliative and hospice services13,11
  12. Diminishes the use of aggressive or intensive treatments at the end of life and reduces the number and/or length of hospital admissions8,14,11
  13. Decreases in-hospital and intensive care unit deaths13
  14. Reduces the cost of end-of-life care without increasing mortality15, 11
  15. Promotes higher completion rates of advance directives5,10
  16. Boosts the effectiveness of meeting patients’ end-of-life wishes over written documents alone13
  17. Improves end-of-life care for individuals with dementia by allowing them to express their care preferences before cognitive function deteriorates to the point they are unable to make their own medical decisions16
  18. Improves outcomes and patient experience while reducing health-related costs for high-risk, high-needs patients17
  19. Improves population health as a result of increased goal-concordant care18

Is your healthcare organization interested in implementing or improving your advance care planning initiative? We can help! The efficacy of ACP Decision’s extensive advance care planning video library has been proven in over 20 clinical trials involving over thousands of people from diverse patient populations in various clinical settings. Contact us today to get started!

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