Advance care planning in 21st century Australia: A systematic review and appraisal of online advance care directive templates against national framework criteria

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian Health Review, 2015, 39 (5), pp. 552 - 560
Issue Date:
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© AHHA 2015. Objectives. A drive to promote advance care planning at a population level has led to a proliferation of online advance care directive (ACD) templates but little information to guide consumer choice. The current study aimed to appraise the quality of online ACD templates promoted for use in Australia. Methods. A systematic review of online Australian ACD templates was conducted in February 2014. ACD templates were identified via Google searches, and quality was independently appraised by two reviewers against criteria from the 2011 report A National Framework for Advance Care Directives. Bias either towards or against future medical treatment was assessed using criteria designed to limit subjectivity. Results. Fourteen online ACD templates were included, all of which were available only in English. Templates developed by Southern Cross University best met the framework criteria. One ACD template was found to be biased against medical treatment - the Dying with Dignity Victoria Advance Healthcare Directive. Conclusions. More research is needed to understand how online resources can optimally elicit and record consumers' individual preferences for future care. Future iterations of the framework should address online availability and provide a simple rating system to inform choice and drive quality improvement. What is known about the topic? Online availability of ACD templates provides consumers with an opportunity for advance care planning outside of formal healthcare settings. While online availability has advantages, there is a risk that templates may be biased either for or against medical treatment and may not elicit directives that are appropriately informed by reflection on personal values and discussion with family and health professionals. What does this paper add? This is the first attempt at monitoring the quality and bias of online ACD templates designed for use in Australia. What are the implications for practitioners? The results of this review provide a description and quality index to assist consumers and clinicians in deciding which online ACD template to use or recommend.
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