Objective To evaluate the effect of a video decision support tool on the preferences for future medical care in older people if they develop advanced dementia, and the stability of those preferences after six weeks.
Design Randomised controlled trial conducted between 1 September 2007 and 30 May 2008.
Setting Four primary care clinics (two geriatric and two adult medicine) affiliated with three academic medical centres in Boston.
Participants Convenience sample of 200 older people (≥65 years) living in the community with previously scheduled appointments at one of the clinics. Mean age was 75 and 58% were women.
Intervention Verbal narrative alone (n=106) or with a video decision support tool (n=94).
Main outcome measures Preferred goal of care: life prolonging care (cardiopulmonary resuscitation, mechanical ventilation), limited care (admission to hospital, antibiotics, but not cardiopulmonary resuscitation), or comfort care (treatment only to relieve symptoms). Preferences after six weeks. The principal category for analysis was the difference in proportions of participants in each group who preferred comfort care.
Results Among participants receiving the verbal narrative alone, 68 (64%) chose comfort care, 20 (19%) chose limited care, 15 (14%) chose life prolonging care, and three (3%) were uncertain. In the video group, 81 (86%) chose comfort care, eight (9%) chose limited care, four (4%) chose life prolonging care, and one (1%) was uncertain (χ2=13.0, df=3, P=0.003). Among all participants the factors associated with a greater likelihood of opting for comfort care were being a college graduate or higher, good or better health status, greater health literacy, white race, and randomisation to the video arm. In multivariable analysis, participants in the video group were more likely to prefer comfort care than those in the verbal group (adjusted odds ratio 3.9, 95% confidence interval 1.8 to 8.6). Participants were re-interviewed after six weeks. Among the 94/106 (89%) participants re-interviewed in the verbal group, 27 (29%) changed their preferences (κ=0.35). Among the 84/94 (89%) participants re-interviewed in the video group, five (6%) changed their preferences (κ=0.79) (P<0.001 for difference).
Conclusion Older people who view a video depiction of a patient with advanced dementia after hearing a verbal description of the condition are more likely to opt for comfort as their goal of care compared with those who solely listen to a verbal description. They also have more stable preferences over time.
Trial registration Clinicaltrials.gov NCT00704886.