Factors influencing decision-making processes for intensive care therapy goals: A systematic integrative review

Diane Kelly, Jonathan Barrett, Gabrielle Brand, Michelle Leech, Charlotte Rees

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review


Background: Delivering intensive care therapies concordant with patients' values and preferences is considered gold standard care. To achieve this, healthcare professionals must better understand decision-making processes and factors influencing them. Aim: The aim of this study was to explore factors influencing decision-making processes about implementing and limiting intensive care therapies. Design: Systematic integrative review, synthesising quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods studies. Methods: Five databases were searched (Medline, The Cochrane central register of controlled trials, Embase, PsycINFO, and CINAHL plus) for peer-reviewed, primary research published in English from 2010 to Oct 2022. Quantitative, qualitative, or mixed-methods studies focussing on intensive care decision-making were included for appraisal. Full-text review and quality screening included the Critical Appraisal Skills Program tool for qualitative and mixed methods and the Medical Education Research Quality Instrument for quantitative studies. Papers were reviewed by two authors independently, and a third author resolved disagreements. The primary author developed a thematic coding framework and performed coding and pattern identification using NVivo, with regular group discussions. Results: Of the 83 studies, 44 were qualitative, 32 quantitative, and seven mixed-methods studies. Seven key themes were identified: what the decision is about; who is making the decision; characteristics of the decision-maker; factors influencing medical prognostication; clinician-patient/surrogate communication; factors affecting decisional concordance; and how interactions affect decisional concordance. Substantial thematic overlaps existed. The most reported decision was whether to withhold therapies, and the most common decision-maker was the clinician. Whether a treatment recommendation was concordant was influenced by multiple factors including institutional cultures and clinician continuity. Conclusion: Decision-making relating to intensive care unit therapy goals is complicated. The current review identifies that breadth of decision-makers, and the complexity of intersecting factors has not previously been incorporated into interventions or considered within a single review. Its findings provide a basis for future research and training to improve decisional concordance between clinicians and patients/surrogates with regards to intensive care unit therapies.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalAustralian Critical Care
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Critical care
  • Decision-making processes
  • End-of-life decisions
  • Intensive care therapies
  • Intensive care unit
  • Limiting therapies
  • Withdrawal of therapies

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