Goals-of-care conversations are a central component of high-quality patient-centered care. However, clinicians may not engage in such conversations until patients are critically ill.


To assess the frequency and quality of goals-of-care conversation documentation among patients who died in an intensive care unit, and then to develop and implement mechanisms to improve the quantity and quality of such conversations.


A baseline retrospective medical records review of intensive care unit deaths that occurred within 1 year was conducted to assess the barriers to high-quality goals-of-care conversations. A nurse-led inter-professional task force was formed to address possible solutions.


A new electronic health record tab, note type, and preformatted template known as a SmartPhrase for goals-of-care conversations were created. Nurses and physicians were educated and encouraged to perform and document goals-of-care conversations.


Before implementation of the initiative, the electronic health record lacked a consistent place to document goals-of-care conversations, and such conversations were not occurring until patients required intensive care. Moreover, the content of documentation of the conversations was inconsistent. Three years after implementation of the initiative, the goals-of-care conversation documentation tab was used for 75% of hospital deaths, and 67% of goals-of-care conversation notes included use of the SmartPhrase template.


Electronic health record platforms can be used to improve the frequency, consistency of documentation, and quality of goals-of-care conversations. A standardized process coupled with effective work tools can foster a culture of advance care planning.

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