[Skip to Navigation]
September 25, 1995

Factors Promoting Completion of Advance Directives in the Hospital

Author Affiliations

From the New York State Task Force on Life and the Law, New York City (Mss Cugliari and Miller); and the Division of Nutrition Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY (Dr Sobal).

Arch Intern Med. 1995;155(17):1893-1898. doi:10.1001/archinte.1995.00430170089011

Background:  The 1991 Patient Self-Determination Act required health care providers to give patients information about advance directives.

Objectives:  To investigate whether the requirement to distribute information to hospital patients increased completion of the health care proxy. To also explore factors that might influence use of advance directives, including demographic variables and methods of informing patients about the directives.

Patients and Methods:  We interviewed 419 randomly selected patients who were admitted for a planned admission to two tertiary care, teaching hospitals. Patients at one hospital received proxy information before the day of admission, at a pretesting visit, or by mail. The other hospital distributed the proxy information only on the day of admission.

Results:  Before receiving hospital materials, 17% of all patients had completed proxies. After receiving hospital proxy forms, an additional 40% completed proxies at the hospital that distributed forms before the day of admission. Only 4% of the patients completed proxies at the hospital that distributed information only on the day of admission. The most frequently cited barrier to completion of a proxy was not seeing the form. Few patients said they did not want to think about the subject.

Conclusions:  Completion rates for advance directives may be markedly improved by altering the time for distributing information to patients admitted to the hospital for a planned admission. Patients were more likely to complete a proxy in the hospital that distributed the form in advance of the day of admission, a result that was unexplained by other variables in the study. Although many patients would prefer to receive information about advance directives during an office visit with a physician, hospitalization can provide a valuable opportunity for many patients to complete directives.(Arch Intern Med. 1995;155:1893-1898)