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Capturing what matters: A retrospective observational study of advance care planning documentation at an academic medical center during the COVID-19 pandemic



Advance care planning allows patients to share their preferences for medical care with the aim of ensuring goal-concordant care in times of serious illness. The morbidity and mortality of the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the importance and public visibility of advance care planning. However, little is known about the frequency and quality of advance care planning documentation during the pandemic.


This study examined the frequency, quality, and predictors of advance care planning documentation among hospitalized medical patients with and without COVID-19.


This retrospective cohort analysis used multivariate logistic regression to identify factors associated with advance care planning documentation.


This study included all adult patients tested for COVID-19 and admitted to a tertiary medical center in San Francisco, CA during March 2020.


Among 262 patients, 31 (11.8%) tested positive and 231 (88.2%) tested negative for SARS-CoV-2. The rate of advance care planning documentation was 38.7% in patients with COVID-19 and 46.8% in patients without COVID-19 (p = 0.45). Documentation consistently addressed code status (100% and 94.4% for COVID-positive and COVID-negative, respectively), but less often named a surrogate decision maker, discussed prognosis, or elaborated on other wishes for care. Palliative care consultation was associated with increased advance care planning documentation (OR: 6.93, p = 0.004).


This study found low rates of advance care planning documentation for patients both with and without COVID-19 during an evolving global pandemic. Advance care planning documentation was associated with palliative care consultation, highlighting the importance of such consultation to ensure timely, patient-centered advance care planning.

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