A review of paper-based advance care planning aids

John F.P. Bridges, Thomas Lynch, Anne L.R. Schuster, Norah L. Crossnohere, Katherine Clegg Smith, Rebecca A. Aslakson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Advance care planning (ACP) aids can help prepare patients, family members, and physicians for in-the-moment medical decision-making. We wished to describe the content and approach of paper-based ACP aids in order to characterize existing aids and inform the development of a new ACP aid. Methods: Paper-based ACP aids were identified through an environmental scan and screened for eligibility. ACP conceptual frameworks and data were gathered via stakeholder engagement and used to inform the coding framework that two investigators used to independently code each aid. A directed content analysis was conducted on these eligible aids. Aids were categorized through a deliberative process with an investigator abstracting general information for each aid. Results: Fifteen aids met the eligibility criteria. They ranged in length from 6 to 78 pages with the average aid written at an eighth-grade reading level. The content analysis revealed that many aids encouraged choosing a surrogate decision maker and informed users about legal medical documents. Fewer than half of the aids facilitated patient clarification of values regarding quality of life issues. The authors identified and termed the following three categories of aids: informative; semi-action oriented; and action-oriented. It was often unclear whether patients contributed to the development or testing of the ACP aids reviewed. Conclusions: Most existing paper-based ACP aids address legal matters such as completing an advance directive. Only a minority elicited patient values and it was unclear whether any were developed in partnership with patients. Future development of ACP aids should account for patient preferences with a goal of supporting in-the-moment medical decision-making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number54
JournalBMC Palliative Care
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 27 2018


  • Advance care planning
  • Decision aid
  • Patient decision-making
  • Patient-centered care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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