Computerized records don’t make clients’ advance directives available

By: Michael Wall

Electronic medical records are not the answer to making clients’ advance directives easily available at a hospital when they’re needed, according to a recent news report. Contrary to what we all might assume, most physicians cannot get their patients’ advance directives easily—if at all—through electronic health records (EHRs).

In a USA Today article, Kaiser Health News uncovered a surprising set of technical problems that stand in the way. One major barrier: many EHRs are incompatible with each other and can’t share your clients’ advance directives (as well as other medical information) among them. For example, if your client’s doctor uses one system and the emergency room uses a different EHR, the emergency physician may not be able get a copy of the advance directive from the hospital, or even know that your client has one.  

The issue is compounded when your client receives treatment from numerous facilities.

Another problem: the advance directive frequently doesn’t have its own “tab” in the EHR, which means that no one knows where to look for it within a client’s electronic record. Surprisingly, the doctor or nurse would have to forage through a jumble of scanned files in the patient’s record to search for the document. 

“If they’re not able to access the advance directive quickly and easily, they’re honestly likely not to use it,” said Torrie Fields, senior program manager for palliative care at Blue Shield of California

These technology barriers are a huge issue for your clients, who probably (and rightly) assume their directive would be easily accessible through their hospital’s EHR once they’ve provided it. 

The article also notes that a handful of states have created online registries to make their residents’ advance directives available. While the specifics vary from state to state, they generally require an online login from the hospital, which then has to search for an advance directive for the patient.

State registries are also problematic for clients those who travel, have multiple residences, or see doctors in multiple states. But primarily, doctors and nurses simply do not have the time to deal with them. “We don’t have extra staff to say, ‘She might have an advance directive somewhere – check the top five directories and let me know,’” said Marian Grant, director of policy and professional engagement at the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care.

As you may already know, the DocuBank advance directives registry addresses all the problems of obtaining a client’s advance directives that are identified in the Kaiser Health News/USA Today piece. It’s the universal way for clients to let their doctors know: “yes, I have an advance directive, and here is how you get it.”

With the emergency wallet card that clients carry, hospitals and doctors have all the instructions they need to instantly obtain your client’s advance directive from any hospital, regardless of the EHR. Unlike some state registries, all information needed to obtain the documents is right on the card. No searching is needed. Your clients are always protected in a medical emergency 24/7/365.

If you’re already providing DocuBank to your clients, use the Kaiser news report to tell your clients about this EHR problem and the solution for their advance directives that you've given them! This is the perfect opportunity to remind them why you provided a DocuBank card and membership. Contact us for free newsletter content and publish it on your blog, print it in your next newsletter, or design a marketing campaign and mail it to clients you haven't heard from in a while. 

If you aren’t currently offering clients a DocuBank card, contact us at 610-667-3524 or email me to learn more.

April 28, 2016 | Advance Care Planning Research, Advance Care Planning News, DocuBank