New guide seeks to improve physicians' end-of-life conversations

A new guide has been developed to advise physicians on having end-of-life conversations with patients and their families.

The “Serious Illness Conversation Guide” is composed of seven questions that focus on helping patients understand the reality of their medical situation without causing emotional distress. Questions include the patient's concerns and fears and factors they believe are important to their quality of life.

The guide, which was developed through a collaboration between Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health, is in its second year of efficacy trials. After four years of research, experts hope to determine if the guide helps physicians and patients have more conversations about end-of-life care, and if those conversations take place earlier in the patient's disease progression.

Last month, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released a proposal that would reimburse healthcare practitioners for discussing advanced care planning with patients. CMS is seeking public comments on the proposal, which is part of the 2016 proposed physician fee schedule.