Observations from Optimizing an Electronic Order Set for Withdrawal of Life-Sustaining Treatment.

Publication date: Feb 27, 2024

Background: Withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment (WLST) is a process with unique pressure for all involved. The use of an electronic order set can facilitate best care. Objective: To assess utilization of a WLST order set and time to inpatient death before and after optimization. Design: A retrospective chart review for 12-month periods before and after enhancements to a WLST order set. Setting/Subjects: Multicenter study within an American, not-for-profit health care system of inpatient decedents July 2017-June 2018 and April 2021-March 2022 with orders placed via WLST order set. Measurements: Co-primary outcomes included order set utilization and time from activation of orders to patient death. Descriptive post hoc analyses featured demographics, palliative consultation, ordering clinician type/specialty, and COVID-19. Results: A total of 1949 patients had orders placed via the WLST order set and died in-hospital. Compared with the 2017-2018 period, use increased 35. 8% in 2021-2022. Time to death after release of orders was significantly longer for the 2021-2022 group (4. 4 vs. 3. 7 hours). Demographic details included nurse practitioners (39%) as most frequent WLST order set utilizer and palliative consultation in 46% of terminal hospitalizations. Among decedents with consultation, palliative clinicians were the WLST order set utilizer for 47% of cases (i. e., 21% of all WLST order set utilizations). The median time to death was significantly longer when orders were placed by a palliative clinician (4. 5 hours) compared with nonpalliative specialists (3. 9 hours). COVID-19 was a hospital diagnosis for 29% of decedents in the 2021-2022 group. Conclusions: In the emotionally and cognitively intense process that is WLST, an order set provides a modifiable panel of defaults. Our experience highlights the power in guiding primary palliative care for WLST in the hospital setting and suggests that advanced practice providers and nonpalliative clinicians, as primary utilizers, be integral in the design of a WLST order set.

Concepts Keywords
April electronic order set
Death primary palliative care


Type Source Name
disease IDO process
disease VO time
disease MESH death
disease MESH COVID-19
pathway REACTOME Release

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