Objectives: To describe the quality of physician-family communication during interpreted and noninterpreted family meetings in the PICU.
Design: Prospective, exploratory, descriptive observational study of noninterpreted English family meetings and interpreted Spanish family meetings in the pediatric intensive care setting.
Setting: A single, university-based, tertiary children’s hospital.
Subjects: Participants in PICU family meetings, including medical staff, family members, ancillary staff, and interpreters.
Interventions: Thirty family meetings (21 English and nine Spanish) were audio-recorded, transcribed, de-identified, and analyzed using the qualitative method of directed content analysis.
Measurements and Main Results: Quality of communication was analyzed in three ways: 1) presence of elements of shared decision-making, 2) balance between physician and family speech, and 3) complexity of physician speech. Of the 11 elements of shared decision-making, only four occurred in more than half of English meetings, and only three occurred in more than half of Spanish meetings. Physicians spoke for a mean of 20.7 minutes, while families spoke for 9.3 minutes during English meetings. During Spanish meetings, physicians spoke for a mean of 14.9 minutes versus just 3.7 minutes of family speech. Physician speech complexity received a mean grade level score of 8.2 in English meetings compared to 7.2 in Spanish meetings.
Conclusions: The quality of physician-family communication during PICU family meetings is poor overall. Interpreted meetings had poorer communication quality as evidenced by fewer elements of shared decision-making and greater imbalance between physician and family speech. However, physician speech may be less complex during interpreted meetings. Our data suggest that physicians can improve communication in both interpreted and noninterpreted family meetings by increasing the use of elements of shared decision-making, improving the balance between physician and family speech, and decreasing the complexity of physician speech.