Last updated on September 2018

An Effectiveness-Implementation Trial of SPIRIT in ESRD


Brief description of study

Despite advances in dialysis, only 50% of dialysis patients are alive 3 years after the onset of end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Although withdrawal of dialysis precedes 1 in 4 deaths of patients with ESRD, withdrawal from dialysis and aggressive treatment is rarely discussed by patients and their surrogates with sufficient time to consider alternatives such as hospice or dying at home. Over the last decade, the researchers have developed and iteratively tested a patient and family-centered advance care planning intervention based on the Representational Approach to Patient Education called "Sharing Patient's Illness Representation to Increase Trust" (SPIRIT). SPIRIT is a 6-step, 2-session, face-to-face intervention to promote cognitive and emotional preparation for end-of-life decision making for patients with ESRD and their surrogates. In these explanatory trials carried out in dialysis clinics, SPIRIT was delivered by trained research nurses. The researchers have established feasibility, patient-surrogate acceptability, and efficacy. Patients and surrogates participating in SPIRIT showed significant improvement in preparedness for end-of-life decision making, and surrogates in SPIRIT reported significantly improved post-bereavement psychological outcomes after the patient's death compared to a no treatment comparison condition. The logical, critical next step is to ask: Will SPIRIT be effective as part of routine care in real-world settings with less control? To address this very issue, The researchers will conduct a real-world effectiveness-implementation study. This study is a multicenter, clinic-level cluster randomized trial to evaluate the effectiveness of SPIRIT delivered by dialysis care providers as part of routine care in free-standing outpatient dialysis clinics compared to usual care plus delayed SPIRIT implementation. This study will evaluate the implementation of SPIRIT, including sustainability.

The researchers will recruit 400 dyads of patients at high risk of death in the next year and their surrogates from 30 dialysis clinics in 4 states. Patients and surrogates will complete questionnaires at baseline and after the intervention; all participants will be followed for up to 9 months.

Detailed Study Description

End-stage renal disease (ESRD) currently affects nearly 662,000 people in the U.S. While dialysis is the treatment of choice for over 90% of patients with ESRD and is universally covered by Medicare regardless of patient age or means, the likelihood that dialysis can restore health or prolong life is limited; only 50% of dialysis patients are alive 3 years after the onset of ESRD. Thus many dialysis patients and their family members or surrogate decision-makers have to face difficult end-of-life decisions. Although advance care planning (ACP), in which patients and surrogate decision-makers discuss future health states and treatment options, is a central tenet of dialysis care, the vast majority of dialysis patients (>90%) report never engaging in ACP discussions with their care providers. The lack of effective ACP to prepare patients and their surrogates for end-of-life decision making with sufficient time before death has deleterious consequences at all levels of society. Consequences have been well documented: prolonged use of futile treatment at the end of life, which misuses the healthcare system, high levels of surrogate distress during decision making, which emanates from not having a clear understanding of the patient's wishes, and surrogates experiencing later sequelae of psychosocial morbidities, such as depression and family discord.

"Sharing Patient's Illness Representation to Increase Trust" (SPIRIT), a patient and family-centered ACP intervention based on the Representational Approach to Patient Education, was designed by our team to establish a testable model of how end-of-life care discussions could occur between a dialysis patient and his/her chosen surrogate (usually a spouse or adult child). The discussions, which are facilitated by a trained care provider, are framed around addressing each individual's representations of (beliefs about) the illness and views of life-sustaining measures at the end of life. SPIRIT follows a six-step learning objective over two-sessions, which together take about 60 minutes. The care provider, who is value-neutral, guides the patient in examining his/her values related to end-of-life care, helps the surrogate understand the patient's illness progression, and prepares the surrogate for his/her role as a surrogate in a highly emotionally charged medical setting. Over the last decade, SPIRIT has been tested to establish feasibility, patient-surrogate acceptability, and efficacy. In these explanatory trials carried out in dialysis clinics, SPIRIT was delivered by trained research nurses. Patients and surrogates in SPIRIT showed significant improvement in preparedness for end-of-life decision making, including the extent to which: a) the patient and surrogate agreed on end-of-life care goals, b) the patient had reduced conflict about the benefits and burdens of life-sustaining treatments, and c) the surrogate had increased confidence about the role of surrogate. Key to establishing the utility of this approach for broader generalizability, surrogates who received SPIRIT reported significantly improved post-bereavement psychological outcomes after the patient's death compared to those who did not. The logical, critical next step is to ask: Will SPIRIT be effective as part of routine care in real-world clinical settings with less control? To address this very issue, the researchers will conduct a real-world effectiveness-implementation study, an essential step prior to widespread implementation of SPIRIT.

This study is a multicenter, clinic-level cluster randomized trial to evaluate the effectiveness of SPIRIT delivered by dialysis care providers as part of routine care in free-standing outpatient dialysis clinics compared to usual care plus delayed SPIRIT implementation. Simultaneously, the researchers will evaluate the implementation of SPIRIT, including sustainability. This study will use a Type I effectiveness-implementation hybrid approach that combines testing intervention effectiveness and gathering information about implementation of an efficacious intervention in a real world setting. The short-term goal is to generate sufficient evidence to accelerate the integration of SPIRIT into dialysis practice and policy. This study will recruit 400 dyads of patients at high risk of death in the next year and their surrogates (a total of 800 individuals) from 30 dialysis clinics in 4 states. The dialysis clinics will be randomized to implement SPIRIT immediately or to maintain usual care to serve as a control to the intervention. Participants will be recruited for 15 months. The control sites will implement SPIRIT after the 15 month intervention and 9 month follow up period is complete. Individual patient participation will end at 9 months or death, whichever occurs first; surrogate participation will end at 9 months or at the completion of 3-month post-death follow-up.

Clinical Study Identifier: NCT03138564

Contact Investigators or Research Sites near you

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Mi-Kyung Song, PhD, RN

Dialysis Clinic, Inc - Taos
Taos, NM United States
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