Report Shows Electronic Health Records Fail to Make Advance Medical Directives Available to Doctors When Needed
Our firm recommends clients use an electronic registry for their Living Wills, Health Care Powers of Attorney, and HIPAA Releases to make sure these vital documents are instantly available 24/7/365 at any hospital. These legal documents are commonly referred to as Advance Directives or Health Care Documents.
We include a year’s free enrollment in the DocuBank electronic registry at no cost with every new estate plan to make sure our clients or their doctors have immediate access to their Advance Directives. Now there is new information to confirm why instant and reliable access to Advance Directives is so important.
Many hospitals and health provider systems have implemented computerized database systems to make patient medical records available to doctors and other providers in the system. This is referred to as Electronic Health Records (EHRs). You might expect that these systems would make it easier for doctors to access their patients’ Advance Directives at the hospital, especially in an emergency. But a recent news report in in USA Today/Kaiser Health News reports a different reality.
Advance Directives, as you may recall, are the documents that give you control over your medical care even if you are unable to speak for yourself. Our firm includes these documents as part of every estate plan we create. In these legal documents, you designated someone to make health care decisions for you if you cannot speak for yourself, give your preferences on what types of treatments you would or would not want, and authorize who you want to have access to your confidential medical information.
Ironically, electronic medical records, which are supposed to help find patient information, create their own problems, the article explains. One issue is that different electronic medical records are incompatible, meaning that hospitals usually can’t share your Advance Directives among them or even, more surprisingly, between different departments of the same hospital. As a result, you could be admitted to an Emergency Department, which may have one EHR, and it might not be able to get your medical-legal documents in the hospital’s main EHR.
Another problem is that it takes too long to find your Advance Directive because most EHRs aren’t set up to store them in an easily accessible way. “If [medical staff are] not able to access the Advance Directive quickly and easily, they’re honestly likely not to use it,” says Torrie Fields, senior program manager for palliative care at Blue Shield of California.
In addition, the article affirms what we already know: patients frequently (and understandably) forget to bring their Advance Directives with them when they have a scheduled hospital visit.
Lack of availability of your Advance Directives can be an especially big problem in the ER, where it’s extremely important that your doctors and loved ones have instant access to these documents and therefore to your wishes. A survey of ER doctors last year found that 93% are “less frustrated” when Advance Directives are “easily accessible,” and the vast majority of them said the documents let them provide better care and that family members are more satisfied.
These problems are precisely why we started our policy a few years ago of registering our clients in DocuBank as part of their estate plan. We’ve heard the horror stories, and we wanted to make sure your doctors and loved ones can immediately obtain your Advance Directives so that you can get the best care — the care that you want. The DocuBank electronic registry is not plagued by the issues that surround EHRs. It’s quick, reliable, secure, and confidential. Plus DocuBank includes an added benefit of providing members with their SafeVault™ service. You can use SafeVault™ to store any legal or non-legal documents or information, protected by industry standards security measures.
If you have a DocuBank enrollment, you are provided a wallet card with all information and instructions necessary for a hospital staff person. Simply give your DocuBank card to hospital staff when they ask you for your Living Will, Health Care Power of Attorney, or HIPAA Release. They can get a copy immediately. (They’ll do this by visiting the DocuBank website or by calling the 800-number on the card to receive a fax.) You can also call DocuBank yourself to have your documents sent. Just ask the hospital staff for their fax number and call DocuBank on your cell phone! It works in any hospital, regardless of what system they’re using.
Want to start a DocuBank membership? Or renew a lapsed membership? Not sure about what your Advance Directives mean or want to make changes? Call our office at 513.721.1513 and we can schedule a review.