Context Many physicians avoid advance care planning (ACP) discussions because they worry such conversations will lead to psychological distress. Objectives To investigate whether engaging in ACP using online planning tools adversely affects hope, hopelessness, or anxiety among patients with advanced cancer. Methods Patients with advanced cancer and an estimated survival of two years or less (Intervention group) and a Control group were recruited at a tertiary care academic medical center (2007-2012) to engage in ACP using an online decision aid ("Making Your Wishes Known"). Pre/post and between-group comparisons were made, including hope (Herth Hope Index), hopelessness (Beck Hopelessness Scale), and anxiety (State Trait Anxiety Inventory). Secondary outcomes included ACP knowledge, self-determination, and satisfaction. Results A total of 200 individuals completed the study. After engaging in ACP, there was no decline in hope or increase in hopelessness in either the Control or Intervention group. Anxiety was likewise unchanged in the Control group but decreased slightly in the Intervention group. Knowledge of ACP (% correct answers) increased in both the groups, but more so in the Intervention group (13% increase vs. 4%; P < 0.01). Self-determination increased slightly in both groups, and satisfaction with the ACP process was greater (P < 0.01) in the Intervention than Control group. Conclusion Engaging in ACP with online planning tools increases knowledge without diminishing hope, increasing hopelessness, or inducing anxiety in patients with advanced cancer. Physicians need not avoid ACP out of concern for adversely affecting patients' psychological well-being.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Clinical Neurology
- Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine