Blog Post

Published September 12, 2019

How the Latest Technologies Facilitate the Advance Care Planning Process

Health technologies have the power to transform the delivery of care. Advance care planning (ACP) is an important element within healthcare that helps ensure people receive the care they want at end of life. As many health systems work toward formalizing processes for ACP, technology can provide valuable tools for overcoming obstacles that create gaps in the delivery of ACP services and end-of-life care. The following are some of the latest technological tools that facilitate the ACP process.     

Online Communities

An online community, also called a virtual community or social platform, is a network of individuals with a common interest who interact with one another via an online platform. One of the many benefits of an online community is that it creates a space to share ideas and collaborate. 

Healthcare providers most commonly join these forums to network, read relevant articles, listen to experts, research medical developments, and consult colleagues about patient issues. With more than half of physicians feeling “educationally unprepared” to have end-of-life conversations with their patients, a social platform can be a great resource.   

Telemedicine/Telehealth

SDM is a patient-centered intervention that brings numerous benefits to providers, patients, and health care organizations. Carrying it out requires a shift in mindset from all levels of the organization, in essence, adaptive change is what is needed. To be effective, senior leadership, management, and care teams will need to support the initiative and promote SDM practices. Building a case for the program is essential to getting everyone on board.

Telehealth, which includes telemedicine, is defined by the Health Resources Services Administration as “the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration.” 

Digital Access

One of the most significant challenges to carrying out a patient’s desired end-of-life care is that ACP documents are often inaccessible at the time of need. This is compounded by the fact that the ACP process may not be integrated into health provider workflows, negatively impacting the rate of documentation of an individual’s advance directives (AD). One study found that integrating AD documentation into the EHR workflow increased the rate of documentation from 11.5 percent to 76 percent.

Although there is still a way to go, technology is being used to ensure that individual care preferences are honored. One example is My Directives, a digital ACP platform that people use to record their medical treatment wishes. The platform also partners with EHR vendors, providers, and payers to ensure ACP documents are available at the time of need.  Vynca is a similar digital solution which integrates POLST forms into provider workflows and facilitates the sharing of digitized end-of-life plans across multiple healthcare providers.  Another example is Xealth, which is a digital prescribing and analytics platform where clinicians can order ACP content for patients.

Patient Decision Support

For any of these technologies to have meaningful improvements, the decisions that patients document must accurately reflect their goals and values. Decisional support technologies can empower patients and their families to better understand their medical conditions and treatment options and to make more informed medical decisions. 

There are numerous benefits to using video decision aids for end-of-life care planning with seriously ill patients. A technology platform that makes these resources readily available and promotes shared decision making between the patient and provider can facilitate effective ACP. One example is the ACP Decisions Video Library. This collection of high-quality, video decision aids for ACP is accessible via a digital platform and is designed to help clinicians work with their patients to make more effective medical decisions.    

Developments in technology can help patients, their families, and healthcare providers engage in more effective ACP. By facilitating these difficult conversations and making end-of-life care decisions more accessible, quality of care and patient satisfaction are improved, while unwanted care is avoided. 

 If you would like to learn more on how to use the ACP Decisions platform to elevate advance care planning within your organization, please contact us.

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