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Levy C, Ersek M, Scott W, Carpenter JG, Kononowech J, Phibbs C, Lowry J, Cohen J, Foglia M. Life-Sustaining Treatment Decisions Initiative: Early Implementation Results of a National Veterans Affairs Program to Honor Veterans' Care Preferences. Journal of general internal medicine. 2020 Jun 1; 35(6):1803-1812.
BACKGROUND: On July 1, 2018, the Veterans Health Administration (VA) National Center for Ethics in Health Care implemented the Life-Sustaining Treatment Decisions Initiative (LSTDI). Its goal is to identify, document, and honor LST decisions of seriously ill veterans. Providers document veterans' goals and decisions using a standardized LST template and order set. OBJECTIVE: Evaluate the first 7 months of LSTDI implementation and identify predictors of LST template completion. DESIGN: Retrospective observational study of clinical and administrative data. We identified all completed LST templates, defined as completion of four required template fields. Templates also include four non-required fields. Results were stratified by risk of hospitalization or death as estimated by the Care Assessment Need (CAN) score. SUBJECTS: All veterans with VA utilization between July 1, 2018, and January 31, 2019. MAIN MEASURES: Completed LST templates, goals and LST preferences, and predictors of documentation. RESULTS: LST templates were documented for 108,145 veterans, and 85% had one or more of the non-required fields completed in addition to the required fields. Approximately half documented a preference for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Among those who documented specific goals, half wanted to improve or maintain function, independence, and quality of life while 28% had a goal of life prolongation irrespective of risk of hospitalization/death and 45% expressed a goal of comfort. Only 7% expressed a goal of being cured. Predictors of documentation included VA nursing home residence, older age, frailty, and comorbidity, while non-Caucasian race, rural residence, and receipt of care in a lower complexity medical center were predictive of no documentation. CONCLUSIONS: LST decisions were documented for veterans at high risk of hospitalization or death. While few expressed a preference for cure, half desire, cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Predictors of documentation were generally consistent with existing literature. Opportunities to reduce observed disparities exist by leveraging available VA resources and programs.