ICU Family Communication Study

The safety and scientific validity of this study is the responsibility of the study sponsor and investigators. Listing a study does not mean it has been evaluated by the U.S. Federal Government. Read our disclaimer for details. Identifier: NCT00720200
Recruitment Status : Completed
First Posted : July 22, 2008
Last Update Posted : September 16, 2014
National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR)
Information provided by (Responsible Party):
J. Randall Curtis, University of Washington

Brief Summary:
The purpose of this study is to improve care in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) by focusing on communication with family members of patients who are too sick to make decisions about their own care while they are in the ICU. The randomized trial will test the efficacy of a communication intervention designed to improve communication between families and clinicians through the use of a facilitator. Outcome evaluation occurs at the level of the individual family with surveys completed by families and clinicians.

Condition or disease Intervention/treatment Phase
Depression Depressive Symptoms Anxiety Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic ICU Hospitalization Care and Treatment in ICU Behavioral: Facilitator-Based intervention Behavioral: Usual Care Phase 3

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Detailed Description:

Three decades of research on end-of-life care in the United States indicate that people who are dying often spend their final days receiving care they would not choose. The intensive care unit (ICU) is an important focus for efforts to improve end-of-life care both because death is common in this setting - approximately 20% of Americans die in or shortly after a stay in the ICU - and also because care is highly technologic and, thus, expensive. As a result of our prior work we have developed a wealth of knowledge about how to improve communication and decision-making concerning end-of-life care in the ICU. One of the important insights from this knowledge was the need for and development of a facilitator-assisted interdisciplinary communication intervention. This intervention, designed to improve communication and decision-making about end-of-life care in the ICU, offers significant potential benefits for improving patient- and family-centered care for five reasons: 1) communication is an integral component of clinician skill that affects all other aspects of end-of-life care; 2) physicians and nurses in practice do not demonstrate adequate skills for communicating about end-of-life care, especially in the ICU or acute care setting; 3) interventions that have focused on improving communication within the ICU team and between the team and the family have been shown to reduce the "prolongation of dying" common in the ICU, but it remains unclear how to generalize these successes to other hospitals; 4) a recent randomized trial in France used an intervention based on our prior research and showed dramatic reductions in symptoms of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among family members after the patient's death, but it is unclear how to translate these findings to hospitals in the U.S.; and 5) sustainable, generalizable, and widely available interventions that improve communication about end-of-life care are not available.

The long-term objectives are: 1) to demonstrate the efficacy of a generalizable facilitator-assisted interdisciplinary communication intervention in the ICU to improve family and patient outcomes; and 2) to demonstrate the feasibility of making this intervention a routine part of clinical practice in the ICU setting.

The study will advance Nursing science by addressing an important area of emphasis within Nursing science and a key component of the National Institute of Nursing Research's strategic plan. One fifth of deaths in America occur in intensive care units and nurses provide a key component of the care in this setting. With the aging population and coincident advances in medical technology, more patients are likely to die after an unsuccessful trial of intensive care. Prior research suggests that interventions to improve communication about end-of-life care in the ICU may reduce the prolongation of dying that is common in the ICU setting while at the same time improving the quality of care for patients and family members. Unfortunately, this prior research does not provide a clear generalizable intervention that can be easily implemented in academic and community hospitals. The proposed randomized trial will test a feasible and generalizable intervention to improve communication about end-of-life care and improve patient and family outcomes.

The consent forms used for this study address the purpose, procedures, risks, alternatives, benefits, and other information -- including emphasis on the voluntary nature of this research and assurances of confidentiality.

The conceptual model for the intervention addresses three components of self-efficacy theory: 1) knowledge, based on this team's prior research identifying components of communication during ICU family conferences that are associated with improved patient and family outcomes; 2) attitudes, informed by attachment theory as applied to clinician-patient relationships and communication; and 3) communication behaviors informed by principles of mediation based on identifying and resolving conflict in the healthcare setting.

The intervention includes the following steps: 1) in-person interviews by the facilitator with the family prior to the family conference in order to discuss the family's concerns, questions, needs and unique communication characteristics that will be addressed in the family conference; 2) a pre-conference meeting with the facilitator, physician(s), nurse(s), and other clinicians in which a brief summary describing the family's concerns, questions, needs, and unique communication characteristics is presented and discussed; 3) facilitator participation in the family conference; and 4) facilitator follow up with the family throughout the ICU stay. Prior to the facilitator's involvement, both the intervention and control group will meet with the research coordinator who will obtain consent from the family and distribute baseline questionnaires; the research coordinator will also contact both the intervention and control group families at the time of the follow-up questionnaires (3 and 6 months after discharge or death) to notify them that questionnaires are being sent to them and ask if they have any questions. The contacts through the research coordinator are expected to enhance response rates for both groups. For the control group, these contacts with the research coordinator will provide an "attention control." The research coordinator will not provide any of the other intervention components provided by the facilitator (i.e., discussion of concerns or questions prior to the family conference; brief summary to clinicians; participation in the family conference; follow-up contact after the family conference for duration of the ICU stay). A component of the facilitator's role will also include helping to identify the need for a family conference and scheduling these conferences. Therefore, as part of the multi-faceted intervention, we anticipate that family conferences will occur earlier and more frequently in the intervention arm. After the initial family conference, there may be additional family conferences and the facilitator will participate in these conferences for the intervention group.

Study Type : Interventional  (Clinical Trial)
Actual Enrollment : 593 participants
Allocation: Randomized
Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
Masking: None (Open Label)
Primary Purpose: Supportive Care
Official Title: A Randomized Trial of an Interdisciplinary Communication Intervention to Improve Patient and Family Outcomes in the Intensive Care Unit
Study Start Date : June 2008
Primary Completion Date : March 2014
Study Completion Date : May 2014

Arm Intervention/treatment
Experimental: 1 Behavioral: Facilitator-Based intervention
Family Members receiving facilitator-based intervention
Active Comparator: 2 Behavioral: Usual Care
Family Members receiving usual care/clinical interaction

Primary Outcome Measures :
  1. Patient Health Questionaire (PHQ-9) [ Time Frame: At 3- and 6- months following the death of the patient ]
    Family symptoms of depression after the patient dies or is discharged from ICU as assessed by a survey

Secondary Outcome Measures :
  1. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Checklist (PCL) [ Time Frame: At 3- and 6- months following the death of the patient ]
    Symptoms of PTSD

  2. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD-7) Survey [ Time Frame: At 3- and 6- months following the death of the patient ]

  3. Quality of Dying and Death Questionaire [ Time Frame: Following death of patient ]
  4. Evaluate length of stay in ICU/hospital [ Time Frame: During hospital stay ]
  5. Costs during ICU stay including estimated costs of intervention [ Time Frame: During ICU length of stay ]
  6. Families' ratings of the quality of communication generally and specifically in the family conference [ Time Frame: During ICU length of stay ]
  7. Clinicians' ratings of the quality of clinician-family in the family conference [ Time Frame: During ICU length of stay ]
  8. Clinicians' ratings of nurse-physician collaboration [ Time Frame: During ICU length of stay ]

Information from the National Library of Medicine

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Ages Eligible for Study:   18 Years and older   (Adult, Senior)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   No

Inclusion Criteria:

  • Patients, family members, clinicians attending ICU family conferences, and nurses evaluating the quality of care.
  • All ICU patients are eligible if they meet the age criteria, have been in the ICU for at least 12 hours, have acute respiratory failure requiring mechanical ventilation at the time of enrollment, and have an APACHE II score/SOFA score or other diagnosis that predicts a 30-50% or greater risk of mortality.
  • Eligible family members and/or friends may include any of the following: legal guardians, durable power of attorney for healthcare, spouses, adult children, parents, siblings, domestic partners, other relatives, and friends; if they meet the age criteria, and understand English well enough to complete informed consent and study materials.
  • Eligible clinicians include those who are present during a family conference and may include physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, social workers, respiratory therapists, and clergy.
  • All critical care nurses are eligible to participate in the evaluation if they have provided care to a patient on or before the shift in which he or she died or was discharged from the ICU.

Exclusion Criteria:

  • Legal or risk management concerns (as determined by the attending physician or via hospital record designation);
  • Psychological illness or morbidity; and
  • Physical or mental limitations preventing ability to complete questionnaires.
  • Patients will be excluded if they do not have at least one family member who is eligible and willing to participate in the study.
  • A patient who is readmitted to the ICU, if the patient was enrolled and discharged previously, will not be eligible.
  • Post-operative patients who have been admitted to the ICU after a scheduled surgery without complications will be excluded. These patients may meet other eligibility criteria (ventilation, APACHE scores, etc.) within the first 12 to 48 hours of admission, but will usually improve quite rapidly after that period.

Information from the National Library of Medicine

To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contact information provided by the sponsor.

Please refer to this study by its identifier (NCT number): NCT00720200

United States, Washington
Valley Medical Center
Renton, Washington, United States, 98058
Harborview Medical Center
Seattle, Washington, United States, 98104
Sponsors and Collaborators
University of Washington
National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR)
Principal Investigator: J. Randall Curtis, MD, MPH University of Washington, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine
Principal Investigator: Ruth A Engelberg, PhD University of Washington, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine

Publications automatically indexed to this study by Identifier (NCT Number):
Responsible Party: J. Randall Curtis, Professor of Medicine, University of Washington Identifier: NCT00720200     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: 33584-C
2R01NR005226 ( U.S. NIH Grant/Contract )
First Posted: July 22, 2008    Key Record Dates
Last Update Posted: September 16, 2014
Last Verified: September 2014

Keywords provided by J. Randall Curtis, University of Washington:
Intensive Care Units
Palliative Care
End-of-Life Issues
Talking with Your Doctor
Coping with Chronic Illness

Additional relevant MeSH terms:
Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic
Behavioral Symptoms
Stress Disorders, Traumatic
Trauma and Stressor Related Disorders
Mental Disorders