Managing End of Life Care for the Critically Ill: A Novel Program to Deliver Bedside Critical Care Without Transfer to the Intensive Care Unit

Kathryn Bass, Rohit Gupta, Celia Wells, Samantha Ortiz Muriel, Anna Hackett, Sanam Ahmed, Roopa Kohli-Seth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Navigating medical care at the end of life can be a challenging experience for patients. There are also significant resource burdens, including intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, accompanying terminal illness. For actively dying patients, developing a care plan based on patient goals and delivering care at the bedside can enhance patient well-being, avoid inappropriate transfers or interventions, and improve resource management. Methods: The Rapid Response Team (RRT) is an around the clock intensivist service that responds to all acutely decompensating patients in our hospital. Through the Appropriate Care Escalation (ACE) program, the RRT intensivist identifies amongst decompensating patients, terminally ill individuals for whom prognosis is extremely poor irrespective of available interventions. These patients receive discussions about goals of care, code status, and management options. They receive care on a dedicated stepdown unit without escalation to the ICU. If aligned with patient goals, care plans incorporate critical care interventions including ventilator and vasopressor therapy. Results: Over 5 years, RRT identified 413 terminally ill patients under the ACE program to continue end of life care on the stepdown unit. Following discussions of goals, 60.8% of patients requested DNR/DNI, 30.9% were full code, and 8.5% requested DNR/OK-TO-INTUBATE status. At discharge, 82.1% of ACE patients expired compared to 23% of all RRT consultations. Patients received 233 critical care procedures at bedside including intubations, central access catheters and bronchoscopy. Conclusion: The ACE program helped identify, in real time, actively dying, terminally ill patients, establish patient goals, and expand critical care services outside the ICU.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • critical care
  • end-of-life
  • palliative care
  • rapid response team
  • resource utilization
  • terminally ill


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