Introduction: Given the large number of care providers involved for any single ICU patient, the potential exists for families of patients to perceive inconsistent or discordant information coming from different care providers.
Hypothesis: We hypothesize that families of intensive care unit (ICU) patients frequently perceive that they have received inconsistent information from staff about their relatives and that these perceived inconsistencies influence families' ability to make medical decisions.
Methods: During a 38-day period at a single hospital, a family representative for each patient discharged from either the medical ICU or neuroscience ICU was given a brief, novel questionnaire regarding their perceptions of inconsistent information from staff. Subjects whose loved ones either died or were treated with comfort measures only were excluded.
Results: Of 193 eligible patients, 124 (64.2%) had a family member complete the survey. Thirty-one respondents (25.0%, 95% CI 7.7) reported at least one instance of inconsistent information during their loved ones' admission to the ICU, with no difference between the neuroscience ICU (21.5%, 9.3) and medical ICU (31.1%, 14.1) (p = 0.28). Of those who did receive inconsistent information, 38.7% (95% CI 18.2) reported multiple episodes and 74.2% (16.3) indicated that episodes occurred within the first 48 hours of admission. These episodes had a potential adverse effect, with 19.4% (14.7) indicating that they affected satisfaction and 9.7% (11.0) indicating that they made decision-making difficult.
Conclusions: Perceptions of inconsistent information given to families by ICU staff may be prevalent and may influence families' ability to make crucial medical decisions.
(C) 2012 by the Society of Critical Care Medicine and Lippincott Williams & Wilkins