Letting patients file their Advance Care Planning (Advance Directives) online via Patient Portal (Hillary Lum et al)

Dr. Hillary Lum

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0885392418310479

Thanks to Dr. Lum for her persistence and clarity of purpose. She led a team of physician leaders and IT staffers through a complex process, resulting in a first-of-its-kind online tool:

The ability for patients to complete their Advance Care Planning and upload the results using an EHR (electronic health record) patient portal. 

Why is this so important 

  • Very few patients, much less US adults, have an Advance Care Planning document (including Advance Directive, Living Will, 5 Wishes, No CPR, or any other document that records the wishes of the patient in regards end-of-life care)
  • It is difficult for patients to find the form, to understand the form, complete the form, return the form, AND THEN to have clinical staff file or record the form and its wishes in a way that is easily accessible by both healthcare providers as well as patients themselves.
  • Patients without any advance care planning documents risk the possibility of receiving unwanted care at the end of their lives; since patients are so often non-communicative as their health deteriorates, unless the doctors and nurses have a clear statement from the patient, we must assume that the patient wants CPR and other aggressive measures, even if it borders on inappropriate. This tragedy can easily be avoided with easily available documents expressing the patient’s wishes.

And now, at UCHealth, patients can avoid this risk! From the privacy of home, patients can now log in, launch the Advance Care Planning module, complete the questions, and even upload any signed documents in regards to their wishes, into their online Patient Portal, in a permanent storage location easily accessible by the patient (or their permitted proxy) or any of their healthcare providers at UCHealth.

This is pretty cool, and a big leap forward. In fact, even without any publicity to patients (the module just appeared in the portal), over 1000 patients recorded a NEW advance care plan in the first month after this module went live. And, patients continue to sign up at a constant rate.

We hope this continues at UCHealth, and more importantly, that other organizations start doing this as well. Only 36% of US adults (studied in 2017) have an advance directive; meaning that about 2/3 do NOT!

CMIO’s take? We have a lot of work to do, people. Let’s get the rate of advance care planning much closer to 100% of US adults; we never know when we’re going to need one, and by then it is often too late.

Author: CT Lin

CMIO, UCHealth (Colorado); Professor, University of Colorado School of Medicine

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