Providing family members with clear, honest, and timely information is a major task for intensive care unit physicians. Time spent informing families has been associated with effectiveness of information but has not been measured in specifically designed studies.
To measure time spent informing families of intensive care unit patients.
One-day cross-sectional study in 90 intensive care units in France.
Clocked time spent by physicians informing the families of each of 951 patients hospitalized in the intensive care unit during a 24-hr period.
Median family information time was 16 (interquartile range, 8–30) mins per patient, with 20% of the time spent explaining the diagnosis, 20% on explaining treatments, and 60% on explaining the prognosis. One third of the time was spent listening to family members. Multivariable analysis identified one factor associated with less information time (room with more than one bed) and seven factors associated with more information time, including five patient-related factors (surgery on the study day, higher Logistic Organ Dysfunction score, coma, mechanical ventilation
, and worsening clinical status) and two family-related factors (first contact with family and interview with the spouse). Median information time was 20 (interquartile range, 10–39) mins when three factors were present and 106.5 (interquartile range, 103–110) mins when five were present.
This study identifies factors associated with information time provided by critical care physicians to family members of critically ill patients. Whether information time correlates with communication difficulties or communication skills
needs to be evaluated. Information time provided by residents and nurses should be studied.