Saturday, November 7, 2015

Toward Evidence-Based End-of-Life Care — NEJM

"The disquieting patterns of end-of-life care in the United States have been well documented. In the last month of life, one in two Medicare beneficiaries visits an emergency department, one in three is admitted to an intensive care unit, and one in five has inpatient surgery. But one of the most sobering facts is that no current policy or practice designed to improve care for millions of dying Americans is backed by a fraction of the evidence that the Food and Drug Administration would require to approve even a relatively innocuous drug.
For example, more than two thirds of U.S. states have implemented Physician (or Medical) Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST/MOLST) programs despite the absence of compelling evidence that they improve patient outcomes.1 Even less evidence is available to support such well-intentioned private initiatives as the Institute for Healthcare Improvement Conversation Project, the efforts of the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care, the Gundersen Health System's Respecting Choices program, the widely used Five Wishes advance directive of the Aging with Dignity organization, and the services provided by for-profit companies such as Vital Decisions and Common Practice." Today, the central challenge is to avoid complacency regarding plausibly useful but non–evidence-based initiatives. Researchers, research sponsors, and large insurers, employers, and health systems can collaborate to advance knowledge about what works best for whom. And the sooner they do so, the better — before the lack of demonstrable return on investment or the need to focus on other matters dampens policymakers' current enthusiasm."

Toward Evidence-Based End-of-Life Care — NEJM:

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