Paths of Emergency Department Care: Development of a Decision Aid to Facilitate Shared Decision Making in Goals of Care Discussions in the Acute Setting

Laura E. Walker*, M. Fernanda Bellolio, Claudia C. Dobler, Ian G. Hargraves, Robert J. Pignolo, Kevin Shaw, Jacob J. Strand, Bjorg Thorsteinsdottir, Michael E. Wilson, Erik P. Hess

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Goals of care (GOC) conversations in the emergency department (ED) are often a brief discussion of code status rather than a patient-oriented dialogue. We aimed to develop a guide to facilitate conversations between ED clinicians and patients to elicit patient values and establish goals for end-of-life care, while maintaining ED efficiency. Paths of ED Care, a conversation guide, is the product of this work. 

Design: A multidisciplinary/multispecialty group used recommended practices to adapt a GOC conversation guide for ED patients. ED clinicians used the guide and provided feedback on content, design, and usability. Patient-clinician interactions were recorded for discussion analysis, and both were surveyed to inform iterative refinement. A series of discussions with patient representatives, multidisciplinary clinicians, bioethicists, and health care designers yielded feedback. We used a process similar to the International Patient Decision Aid Standards and provide comparison to these. 

Results: A conversation guide, eight pages with each page 6 by 6 inches in dimension, uses patient-oriented prompts and includes seven sections: 1) evaluation of patient/family understanding of disease, 2) explanation of possible trajectories, 3) introduction to different pathways of care, 4) explanation of pathways, 5) assessment of understanding and concerns, 6) code status, and 7) personalized summary. 

Limitations: Recruitment of sufficient number of patients/providers to the project was the primary limitation. Methods are limited to qualitative analysis of guide creation and feasibility without quantitative analysis. 

Conclusions: Paths of ED Care is a guide to facilitate patient-centered shared decision making for ED patients, families, and clinicians regarding GOC. This may ensure care concordant with patients’ values and preferences. Use of the guide was well-received and facilitated meaningful conversations between patients and providers.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMDM Policy and Practice
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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