Improving Communication in Heart Failure Patient Care

Nathan E. Goldstein, Harriet Mather, Karen McKendrick, Laura P. Gelfman, Mathew D. Hutchinson, Rachel Lampert, Hannah I. Lipman, Daniel D. Matlock, Jacob J. Strand, Keith M. Swetz, Jill Kalman, Jean S. Kutner, Sean Pinney, R. Sean Morrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Background: Although implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) reduce sudden death, these patients die of heart failure (HF) or other diseases. To prevent shocks at the end of life, clinicians should discuss deactivating the defibrillation function. Objectives: The purpose of this study was to determine if a clinician-centered teaching intervention and automatic reminders increased ICD deactivation discussions and increased device deactivation. Methods: In this 6-center, single-blinded, cluster-randomized, controlled trial, primary outcomes were proportion of patients: 1) having ICD deactivation discussions; and 2) having the shocking function deactivated. Secondary outcomes included goals of care conversations and advance directive completion. Results: A total of 525 subjects were included with advanced HF who had an ICD: 301 intervention and 224 control. At baseline, 52% (n = 272) were not candidates for advanced therapies (i.e., cardiac transplant or mechanical circulatory support). There were no differences in discussions (41 [14%] vs. 26 [12%]) or deactivation (33 [11%] vs. 26 [12%]). In pre-specified subgroup analyses of patients who were not candidates for advanced therapies, the intervention increased deactivation discussions (32 [25%] vs. 16 [11%]; odds ratio: 2.90; p = 0.003). Overall, 99 patients died; there were no differences in conversations or deactivations among decedents. Secondary outcomes: Among all participants, there was an increase in goals of care conversations (47% intervention vs. 38% control; odds ratio: 1.53; p = 0.04). There were no differences in completion of advance directives. Conclusions: The intervention increased conversations about ICD deactivation and goals of care. HF clinicians were able to apply new communication techniques based on patients’ severity of illness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1682-1692
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the American College of Cardiology
Issue number13
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2019


  • communication
  • heart failure
  • implantable defibrillator
  • palliative care


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