You enrolled in the DocuBank electronic registry for advance directives to make sure your advance directives (i.e. Health Care Powers of Attorney) are always available at the hospital. Now there are new reasons why you need this instant access.
Doctors cannot easily get hold of their patients’ advance directives at the hospital, even in an emergency, and, Electronic Health Records (EHRs) don’t help solve this availability problem, according to a news report in USA Today/Kaiser Health News.
Advance directives, as you may recall, are the documents that give you control over your medical care if you’re unable to speak for yourself. We helped you create these documents as part of your estate plan. In your advance directive you designated someone to make health care decisions for you if you can’t and also gave guidance on the types of treatments you would or would not want.
Ironically, electronic medical records, which are supposed to help find patient information, create their own problems, the article explains. One problem is that different medical records are incompatible, meaning that hospitals usually can’t share your advance directive 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 hold of your advance directive 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 one. “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.
Lack of availability of your advance directive 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.