A study to improve communication between clinicians and patients with advanced heart failure: Methods and challenges behind the working to improve discussions about defibrillator management trial

Nathan E. Goldstein, Jill Kalman, Jean S. Kutner, Erik K. Fromme, Mathew D. Hutchinson, Hannah I. Lipman, Daniel D. Matlock, Keith M. Swetz, Rachel Lampert, Omarys Herasme, R. Sean Morrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Scopus citations


We report the challenges of the Working to Improve Discussions About Defibrillator Management trial, our novel, multicenter trial aimed at improving communication between cardiology clinicians and their patients with advanced heart failure (HF) who have implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs). The study objectives are (1) to increase ICD deactivation conversations, (2) to increase the number of ICDs deactivated, and (3) to improve psychological outcomes in bereaved caregivers. The unit of randomization is the hospital, the intervention is aimed at HF clinicians, and the patient and caregiver are the units of analysis. Three hospitals were randomized to usual care and three to intervention. The intervention consists of an interactive educational session, clinician reminders, and individualized feedback. We enroll patients with advanced HF and their caregivers, and then we regularly survey them to evaluate whether the intervention has improved communication between them and their HF providers. We encountered three implementation barriers. First, there were institutional review board concerns at two sites because of the palliative nature of the study. Second, we had difficulty in creating entry criteria that accurately identified an HF population at high risk of dying. Third, we had to adapt our entry criteria to the changing landscape of ventricular assist devices and cardiac transplant eligibility. Here we present our novel solutions to the difficulties we encountered. Our work has the ability to enhance conduct of future studies focusing on improving care for patients with advanced illness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1236-1246
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2014



  • Heart failure
  • IRB
  • communication
  • intervention
  • methods
  • palliative care
  • randomized controlled trial

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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