Barriers to End-of-life Discussions in the Primary Care Setting

  • Devon S. Boydstun, DO OhioHealth Doctors Hospital Family Practice, Columbus, OH
  • Shandra Basil, OMS-IV Ohio University Heritage College of Medicine, Athens, OH
  • Jill Porter, DO OhioHealth Doctors Hospital Family Practice, Columbus, OH
  • Anand Gupta, MBBS, MPH OhioHealth Research and Innovation Institute, Columbus, OH


Background: The Patient Self Determination Act was passed in 1991 and requires healthcare facilities to present patients with information regarding advanced directives. Since that time, there has been no improvement in the number of patients reported to have had such discussions. Numerous barriers to these discussions exist both on the patient and provider side. This study aims to identify barriers to end of life discussions among providers in the primary care setting.

Methods: The study population included practicing primary care physicians in the OhioHealth system. They were administered an anonymous questionnaire addressing demographic information and questions specific to end of life discussions and what barriers exist.

Results: A majority of primary care physicians reported engaging in end of life discussions with their patients. A majority of physicians cited lack of time as a barrier to having these discussions. There was a statistically significant age difference among primary care physicians who reported they have end of life discussions with their patients and among these physicians there was a statistically significant increase in their level of comfort having these discussions.

Conclusion: Primary care physicians further into their career reported having end of life discussions more frequently and felt more comfortable doing so. Additionally, physicians cite lack of time as the most common barrier to holding end of life discussions.

How to Cite
Devon S. Boydstun, DO, Shandra Basil, OMS-IV, Jill Porter, DO, and Anand Gupta, MBBS, MPH. “Barriers to End-of-Life Discussions in the Primary Care Setting”. Osteopathic Family Physician, Vol. 12, no. 2, Mar. 2020, pp. 12-15, doi:10.33181/12021.
Research Article