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Don’t Rely on Electronic Health Records in a Medical Emergency!

By Howard C. Stross
March 10, 2017

You cannot always count on your doctors to have access to your electronic health records in a medical emergency.

More particularly, your doctors will generally not have access to your advance directives, including your health care power of attorney and living will. The problem is your doctors need access to these documents.

Due to the inconsistency in the policies and procedures of maintaining electronic health records (“EHR”), EHRs cannot be counted on to provide access to health information in a hospital emergency room (“ER”) or doctor’s office, but there is a solution available.

Stross Law Firm’s estate planning clients who are enrolled in our Peace of Mind, A Life Plan for Everyone (“POM”) program receive a free membership in the DocuBank Advance Directives Registry. The Registry is to make sure your advance directives are always available at the hospital, doctor’s office, or wherever you are receiving health care. New studies prove the importance of this access.

As a refresher – advance directives are the documents that give you control over your medical care if you cannot speak for yourself. They let you choose who will make health care decisions for you and give guidance on the treatments you would want. Your doctors and loved ones will be flying blind if they cannot obtain these documents when you are in the hospital.

Two studies reported in the Journal of Palliative Medicine show that ER doctors can almost never find their patients’ advance directives in the EHRs. This could be a big problem for you and your loved ones because doctors are increasingly relying on electronic records.

The first study looked at ER usage of advance directives and found that although 59% of patients had completed an advance directive, the ER only found it in patient EHRs 13% of the time. That is not encouraging. Your first thought may be that patients never provided their advance directives to the hospital, but that is not always the case. Even though 69% of the time patients said they previously provided the hospital with copies, the documents were still missing.

The second study surveyed ER doctors about their thoughts on advance directives and EHRs. The study results were stunning. Less than 1/3 of ER doctors felt “very confident” or “extremely confident” that they could locate a patient’s advance directive in the EHR. The results of these studies support a previous report in Kaiser Health News which detailed specific problems hospitals are having, such as multiple, incompatible systems in the same hospital and the lack of a specifically designated location in EHRs for advance directives.

A separate survey of ER doctors found that 93% are “less frustrated” when advance directives are “easily accessible.” The majority said the documents let them “provide a better quality of patient care” and that family members are “more satisfied with the medical care.”

So, what does this mean for you?

You cannot count on your doctors obtaining your advance directive from the hospital’s medical records, even if you provide it to them in advance. That can be a big deal!

Stross Law Firm wants to know that your doctors are not frustrated, your loved ones are satisfied, and that you will receive the exact care you want.

Electronic health records simply cannot provide those comforts for you, which is why we give a DocuBank membership to our estate planning clients enrolled in our law firm’s POM program. With a DocuBank membership, you receive an emergency card. The ER or doctor treating you can use that card to contact DocuBank and immediately obtain your advanced directives.

If you have questions about your advance directives or want to make changes, contact us at 813-852-6500 and we can schedule a review.

Lost your DocuBank card or need to reinstate your membership? Email or call DocuBank at 866-362-8226.

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The lawyers at the Stross Law Firm, P.A. invite you to call or e-mail to arrange a free 30-minute consultation regarding your legal and advisory needs concerning business law, real estate, estate planning, probate and trust administration. We serve clients throughout Florida. Find out how we work and how we may be able to help you.

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