Imagine what would be involved if your firm needed to make your clients’ estate plans available instantly, 24/7, to every law firm, bank, and courthouse in the country. (Yes I know that living trusts don’t go through probate!)
That’s the vision for the future of electronic medical records.
In the perfect world, your clients’ medical information would be readily available to any physician treating them, anywhere in the nation, at any time. So take your estate plan vision above, and add to it the complexity and scale of doctors’ offices, 5000+ hospitals, and myriad health data for each patient.
Last month I wrote about how and why this effort to share important health information among doctors and hospitals is not happening widely. Last week the American Hospital Association (AHA) confirmed this data sharing problem. And it’s not that hospitals don’t want to share data; it’s often that they can’t.
Today, I bring you more bad news: solid data sharing (including advance directives) among hospitals seems unlikely to happen any time soon.
The AHA explained that current problem is with subpar infrastructure for sharing the data. As soon as we hear the word “infrastructure,” we know we’re in trouble.
The AHA described the current methods used for data sharing as highly inefficient, expensive and limiting. Hospitals and the health care IT industry have so far to go to accomplish this data sharing that the AHA has just told the federal government to take a step back and start looking at how far along hospitals are at simply having the “standards, technology and infrastructure needed to support” this data sharing. This is like assessing whether we’ve bought all the ingredients for our cake before we’ve started to bake it.
The takeaway: electronic medical records are unlikely to solve the national advance directive accessibility problem for your clients any time soon. In the meantime, you want the advance directives that you drafted for your clients to work for them at any hospital — especially in an emergency. To make this happen, you’ll need to counsel clients on how to make sure their advance directives are available — now and for some years to come.
Randi J. Siegel, MBA, is the President of DocuBank® (docubank.com), which ensures that the emergency information and healthcare directives of its 250,000+ enrollees are available 24/7/365 through the largest advance directives registry in the U.S., as well as access to an online safe for storage of digital assets and other vital documents. Working with estate planning professionals since 1997, Randi frequently speaks at national estate planning conferences and has appeared on radio and television as an authority on registries. A member of the Philadelphia Estate Planning Council, the International Society of Advance Care Planning and the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care, Randi is active in health education and public engagement related to advance care planning/advance directives. She serves as Pennsylvania liaison to the National Healthcare Decisions Day initiative and as a board member of the Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly. Randi is an ongoing contributor to the Academy blog.
Academy Guest Blogger
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