How Much Volume Should Healthcare Ethics Consult Services Have?


Avery C. Glover, Thomas V. Cunningham, Evelina W. Sterling, and Jason Lesandrini



Background. No standard method exists to assess how many consults a healthcare ethics consultation (HCEC) service should perform. To address this, we developed a method to estimate the volume of HCEC services based on a mixed-methods approach that included a systematic review and survey data on the volume of consult services requested.

Methods. Our investigation included a systematic review of studies that reported the volume of HCEC services that were requested from 2000 to 2017, institutional surveys, and statistical analyses that estimated the volume of HCEC services that were adjusted to the size of the hospitals in the survey and to population acuity.

Results. We contacted the authors of 19 studies that met our inclusion criteria; 17 authors responded to the institutional survey and five provided annualized data points. We found that standard methods of reporting the volume of HCEC services led to inaccuracies in estimating the growth of HCEC services over time. To rectify this, we proposed two means to estimate volume based on either the service goals of HCEC services or hospital size and acuity.

Discussion. The statistical limitations of our study highlight the need to standardize the sharing and reporting of data in clinical ethics. Future work should further standardize methods of HCEC quality assessment using measures similar to those we describe.



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