Objectives Family meetings (FMs) between clinicians, patients and family are recommended as a valuable communication and care planning method in the delivery of palliative care. However, there is a dearth of knowledge regarding FM characteristics, with few studies describing the prevalence, circumstances and content of FMs. The aims of this study were to: (1) measure the prevalence of FMs, (2) examine circumstance and timing of FMs, and (3) explore the content of FMs.
Methods A retrospective medical record audit was conducted of 200 patients who died in an Australian hospital of an expected death from advanced disease. Details of FMs were collected using an audit tool, along with patient demographics and admission data.
Results 33 patients (16.5%) had at least one FM during their inpatient stay. The majority of FMs occurred for patients admitted to an inpatient palliative care unit (59.5%) and were most commonly facilitated by doctors (81.0%). Patient attendance was frequent (40.5%). FM content fell into six categories: medical information, supportive communication behaviours of clinicians, psychosocial support for patients and families, end-of-life discussions, discharge planning and administrative arrangements.
Conclusions Despite the benefits FMs confer, FMs appear to be infrequently used at the end of life. When FMs are used, there is a strong medical focus on both facilitation and content. Available FM documentation tools also appear to be underused. Clinicians are encouraged to have a greater understanding of FMs to optimise their use and adopt a proactive and structured approach to the conduct and documentation of FMs.
- palliative care
- palliative care education
- family carer research
- aged care
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Contributors AW designed data collection tools, collected data for the study, cleaned and analysed the data, and drafted and revised the paper; is a guarantor. KT reviewed the data collection tool, analysed the data, and drafted and revised the paper. JW reviewed the data collection tool, and drafted and revised the paper. PH contributed to the conception of the work, oversaw the direction of the project, reviewed the data collection tool, and drafted and revised the paper.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data availability statement Data are available upon request.
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