Bringing Advance Care Planning to the forefront at KGH

News / General
By Matthew Manor

End-of-life care planning is a tough conversation to have for many people. But this week, the new national “Speak Up” campaign is hoping to fire up more discussions about it.

To get the ball rolling, Monday was National Advance Care Planning Day. Here at KGH we marked it with an information booth in the Atrium Cafe and visits to inpatient units but there is more to come. Critical Care program manager Christina Panopoulos-Rowe is leading a new initiative to bring Advance Care Planning (ACP) to the forefront in our hospital.

“I think there is an enthusiasm across KGH for better advance care planning,” she says. “We want to empower our patients, their families and our caregivers to start having these conversations so that we're not waiting until a crisis moment to try to bring the patient's wishes to light.”

To help us set our course, KGH is participating in a new national study on how well hospitals carry out advance care planning. Our own Dr. Daren Heyland is the principal investigator through his work as scientific director of the Canadian Researchers at the End of Life Network (CARENET).

The multi-year study is looking at how involved patients at high risk of dying and their families are in ACP at 12 institutions in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta. In its first results published this week, the research shows there is lots of room for improvement.

“We should be doing a better job,” says Heyland, who is also an ICU physician here at KGH. “There are clear indications from this study that good communication and decision making are not happening. The consequences of poor planning at the end of life are enormous, as it adds to the suffering of patients, their families and wastes precious health care resources.”

KGH will be using our results as a baseline to help us improve with ACP, beginning with our internal medicine program. A project team is now being put together and it will include input from our Patient and Family Advisory Council.

“A big part of our work will be defining what advance care planning really means and then coming up with standard ways for our care givers to discuss and document it,” says Panopoulos-Rowe.

And with an increasingly elderly population at KGH, there is no time to waste.

“Our goal will be to ensure that ACP is discussed with relevant patients and that their care preferences are heard and supported,” says Panopoulos-Rowe. “This will support our strategic aim to transform the patient experience through a relentless focus on quality, safety and service.”

Our work in ACP will also be part of our upcoming Accreditation Canada review.

If you'd like to know more about the national “Speak Up” campaign to get people talking about end-of-life care, visit