Barriers to advance care planning: A qualitative study of seriously ill Chinese patients and their families

Johnny T.K. Cheung, Doreen Au, Anthony H.F. Ip, Jenny Chan, Kenway Ng, Lok Cheung, Jacqueline Yuen, Elsie Hui, Jenny Lee, Raymond Lo, Jean Woo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Background: Advance care planning (ACP) facilitates identification and documentation of patients' treatment preferences. Its goal aligns with that of palliative care - optimizing quality of life of seriously ill patients. However, concepts of ACP and palliative care remain poorly recognized in Chinese population. This study aims at exploring barriers to ACP from perspective of seriously ill patients and their family caregivers. Methods: This is a qualitative study conducted in a Palliative Day Care Centre of Hong Kong between October 2016 and July 2017. We carried out focus groups and individual interviews for the seriously ill patients and their family caregivers. A semi-structured interview guide was used to explore participants' experiences and attitudes about ACP. Qualitative content analysis was adopted to analyze both manifest content and latent content. Results: A total of 17 patients and 13 family caregivers participated in our study. The qualitative analysis identified four barriers to ACP: 1) limited patients' participation in autonomous decision making, 2) cognitive and emotional barriers to discussion, 3) lack of readiness and awareness of early discussion, and 4) unprepared healthcare professionals and healthcare system. Conclusions: Participations of seriously ill patients, family caregivers and healthcare workers in ACP initiation are lacking respectively. A series of interventions are necessary to resolve the barriers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number80
JournalBMC Palliative Care
Issue number1
StatePublished - 8 Jun 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Advance directives
  • Do-not-attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation
  • End of life care
  • Palliative care


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