Background Conversation guides support professionals to conduct ACP-conversations, yet insight in essential components is limited. This systematic review aims to evaluate the content, rationale and empirical evidence on the effect of ACP interventions based on conversation guides.
Methods Medline, Embase, PsychINFO and CINAHL were searched from January 1, 1998 to February 23, 2018 to identify peer-reviewed articles describing or evaluating scripted ACP-conversation guides. A thematic analysis of the guides was performed. Data on intervention characteristics, underlying rationale and empirical evidence was extracted.
Results Eighty-two articles reporting on thirty-four unique interventions met the inclusion criteria. Analysis of the conversation guides revealed a framework for ACP-conversations consisting of four phases: preparation, initiation, exploration and action. Exploration of patient’s perspectives on illness, living well, end-of-life (EOL) issues and decision making formed the core part of the guides. Their design was often expert-based, without an underlying theoretical background. Empirical evidence on the effect of the interventions was based on heterogeneous outcome measures. Dyad congruence and preference documentation rates increased among intervention subjects in most studies. The studies showed varying effects on knowledge of ACP, decisional conflict, quality of communication and preferences-concordant care. Qualitative research showed that participants appreciate the importance and benefits of ACP-conversations, yet perceive them as difficult and emotional.
Conclusion ACP-conversation guides address a diversity of themes regarding illness, EOL and decision making, with a focus on the exploration of patient’s perspectives and preferences. Evidence on translation of explorative information into specific treatment preferences and consequences for care as provided is limited.
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