A Multidisciplinary Team-Based Approach to Improve Communication With Surrogates of Patients With Chronic Critical Illness

Jared A. Greenberg, James Gerhart, Jacqueline N. Horst, Elaine Chen, Rebecca L. Hunter, Sean O’Mahony, Mei Ean Yeow, Laura Fosler, Lisa A. LaGorio, Edita Meksraityte, Tyler T. Weiss, Kristen Nowak, Jacqueline Geddes, Stacy S. Lambe, Kara Fenton, Raj C. Shah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Clinicians need to deliver prognostic information to surrogates of nondecisional, critically ill patients so that surrogates can make informed medical decisions that reflect the patient’s values. Our objective was to implement a new approach for communicating with surrogates of patients with chronic critical illness. Methods: Surrogate decision makers of patients who were difficult to liberate from mechanical ventilation were prospectively enrolled. Surrogates met with different members of the intensive care unit treatment team for sequential 15-minute appointments to receive patient-specific assessments and education on chronic critical illness. The feasibility and acceptability of this approach were determined. A 24-question comprehension instrument was developed to assess a participant’s understanding that a family member was displaying features of chronic critical illness. Each question was scored from 1 to 5, with larger scores indicating greater comprehension. Results: Over a 15-week period, educational sessions for 9 mechanically ventilated patients were conducted. On average, 2 surrogates per patient (range: 1-4) and 6 members of the interdisciplinary team (range: 4-6) were at each meeting. Surrogates and clinicians had very positive impressions of the communication intervention. The average preintervention comprehension score was 85 of 120 (standard deviation [SD]: 8, range: 71-101). The postintervention comprehension score was greater by 5 points on average (SD: 9, range: −11 to +20 points, P =.04). Conclusions: Surrogates of critically ill patients approved of this novel communication approach and had a greater understanding of the patient’s medical condition after the intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)214-221
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • chronic critical illness
  • prolonged mechanical ventilation
  • shared decision-making


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