Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Advance care directive documentation: issues for clinicians in New South Wales

Mark I. Friedewald A C and Peter A. Cleasby B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Clinical Governance Directorate, Central Coast Local Health District, Level 1, 67 Holden Street, Gosford, NSW 2250, Australia.

B Specialist Palliative Care Services, Central Coast Local Health District, PO Box 6088, Long Jetty, NSW 2261, Australia. Email: Peter.Cleasby@health.nsw.gov.au

C Corresponding author. Email: Mark.Friedewald@health.nsw.gov.au

Australian Health Review - https://doi.org/10.1071/AH16205
Submitted: 19 August 2016  Accepted: 9 December 2016   Published online: 2 February 2017

Abstract

Objective The aim of the present study was to assess the characteristics of documents presented as advance care directives (ACDs) at a public health organisation in New South Wales (NSW). It was envisaged that the findings would inform the refinement of locally developed educational strategies.

Methods All ACD documents provided during hospital admissions and entered into the electronic medical record system over a 12-month period were reviewed. An audit tool was developed and used to identify whether key requirements for ACDs in NSW had been addressed.

Results Of the 100 ACDs that were reviewed, only 50 were assessed as being valid to inform future clinical scenarios. Multiple templates with different designs and of varying length had been used.

Conclusions Documents identified as ACDs may carry doubt about their validity. Clinicians require education about differences in template formats, the application of content to clinical decisions and associated legal responsibilities.

What is known about this topic? Advance Care Directives in NSW exist without a specific legislative framework or prescriptive format. Clinicians are presented with a wide variety of documents with broad variance in content.

What does this paper add? This paper describes the variance found within ACDs in detail, and identifies concerns about validity that healthcare systems need to consider.

What are the implications for practitioners? Clinicians need to discern the validity and utility of ACDs before the content is used in the process of clinical decision-making.


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