Key stakeholders' perceptions of the acceptability and usefulness of a tablet-based tool to improve communication and shared decision making in ICUs

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Article, Peer-reviewed

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Although barriers to shared decision making in intensive care units are well documented, there are currently no easily scaled interventions to overcome these problems. We sought to assess stakeholders' perceptions of the acceptability, usefulness, and design suggestions for a tablet-based tool to support communication and shared decision making in ICUs.


We conducted in-depth semi-structured interviews with 58 key stakeholders (30 surrogates and 28 ICU care providers). Interviews explored stakeholders' perceptions about the acceptability of a tablet-based tool to support communication and shared decision making, including the usefulness of modules focused on orienting families to the ICU, educating them about the surrogate's role, completing a question prompt list, eliciting patient values, educating about treatment options, eliciting perceptions about prognosis, and providing psychosocial support resources. The interviewer also elicited stakeholders' design suggestions for such a tool. We used constant comparative methods to identify key themes that arose during the interviews.


Overall, 95% (55/58) of participants perceived the proposed tool to be acceptable, with 98% (57/58) of interviewees finding six or more of the seven content domains acceptable. Stakeholders identified several potential benefits of the tool including that it would help families prepare for the surrogate role and for family meetings as well as give surrogates time and a framework to think about the patient's values and treatment options. Key design suggestions included: conceptualize the tool as a supplement to rather than a substitute for surrogate-clinician communication; make the tool flexible with respect to how, where, and when surrogates can access the tool; incorporate interactive exercises; use video and narration to minimize the cognitive load of the intervention; and build an extremely simple user interface to maximize usefulness for individuals with low computer literacy.


There is broad support among stakeholders for the use of a tablet-based tool to improve communication and shared decision making in ICUs. Eliciting the perspectives of key stakeholders early in the design process yielded important insights to create a tool tailored to the needs of surrogates and care providers in ICUs.