All our estate planning clients receive a free membership in the DocuBank advance directives registry to make sure their advance directives are always available at the hospital. New studies prove the importance of this access.

Two new studies show that ER doctors are almost never able to find their patients’ advance directives in Electronic Health Records (EHRs). This is a huge problem for you and your loved ones, as doctors are increasingly relying on electronic records.

Advance directives are the documents that give you control over your medical care if you’re unable to speak for yourself. They let you choose who will make health care decisions for you and give guidance on the types of treatments you would or would not want. Your doctors and your loved ones will be flying blind if they’re unable to obtain these documents when you’re in the hospital.

Both studies were reported in the Journal of Palliative Medicine. The first one looked at ER usage of advance directives, and found that 59% of patients had completed an advance directive, but the ER was only able to find it in the EHR 13% of the time. That’s not very encouraging.

My first thought was that maybe the patients never gave their documents to the hospitals, which would explain why they couldn’t find them in the EHR. But, that was not the case: the document was still missing 69% of the time when patients said they previously gave a copy to the hospital.

The second study surveyed ER doctors about their thoughts on advance directives and EHRs. The results were shocking. Fewer than 1/3 of ER doctors felt “very confident” or “extremely confident” that they could locate the patients’ advance directive in the EHR—when there was one to be found.

So, what does all of this mean for you? Simply put, 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’s a big deal, because those documents guide your doctors and your loved ones. A separate survey of ER doctors found that 93% are “less frustrated” when advance directives are “easily accessible.” The vast majority of them said the documents let them “provide a better quality of patient care” and that family members are “more satisfied with the medical care.”

We want to ensure your doctors are not frustrated, your loved ones are satisfied, and that you receive the exact care that you want. EHRs simply cannot provide those comforts for you, which is why we gave you a DocuBank membership with your estate plan.

Simply give your DocuBank emergency card to hospital staff when they ask you for your advance directive. They can print your directive immediately by visiting the DocuBank website or get them by fax by calling the 800-number printed on the card. If you have a cell phone, you can even call DocuBank yourself! Just ask the hospital staff for their fax number and call the 800-number.

We provided your DocuBank membership because we want to make sure that your estate plan works exactly how you want it to. After all, what good are the documents we created if the doctor cannot find them when you’re hospitalized?

If you have questions about your advance directive or want to make changes, call our office at (239) 207-3403 and we can schedule a review.

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