A systematic review of effectiveness of decision aids to assist older patients at the end of life

Magnolia Cardona-Morrell*, Gustavo Benfatti-Olivato, Jesse Jansen, Robin M. Turner, Diana Fajardo-Pulido, Ken Hillman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)


Objective To describe the range of decision aids (DAs) available to enable informed choice for older patients at the end of life and assess their effectiveness or acceptability. Methods Search strategy covered PubMed, Scopus, Ovid MEDLINE, EMBASE, EBM Reviews, CINAHL and PsycInfo between 1995 and 2015. The quality criteria framework endorsed by the International Patient Decision Aids Standards (IPDAS) was used to assess usefulness. Results Seventeen DA interventions for patients, their surrogates or health professionals were included. Half the DAs were designed for self-administration and few described use of facilitators for decision-making. Treatment: options and associated harms and benefits, and patient preferences were most commonly included. Patient values, treatment goals, numeric disease-specific prognostic information and financial implications of decisions were generally not covered. DAs at the end of life are generally acceptable by users, and appear to increase knowledge and reduce decisional conflict but this effectiveness is mainly based on low-level evidence. Conclusions Continuing evaluation of DAs in routine practice to support advance care planning is worth exploring further. In particular, this would be useful for conditions such as cancer, or situations such as major surgery where prognostic data is known, or in dementia where concordance on primary goals of care between surrogates and the treating team can be improved. Practice implications Given the sensitivities of end-of-life, self-administered DAs are inappropriate in this context and genuine informed decision-making cannot happen while those gaps in the instruments remain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)425-435
Number of pages11
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017
Externally publishedYes


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