Advance healthcare directives (sometimes called living wills) allow healthcare providers to put patients’ wishes first to improve end-of-life care, especially when a seriously ill patient cannot speak for themselves. During the 2019 legislative session, Arizona Senate Bill 1352 was passed giving healthcare providers the ability to have real-time access to patients’ wishes – when they need it most. The bill improves provider access to advance directives by moving the healthcare directives registry from its current location within the Secretary of State’s office to Health Current, Arizona’s official Health Information Exchange. Heath Current is now in the process of designing the new advance directives registry system, slated for launch in 2021.
Health Current’s intent in managing the healthcare directives registry is not just to meet all required technical criteria, but to comprehensively change the state’s paradigm for creating, capturing and retrieving advance directives (AD). The Arizona Healthcare Directives Registry (AzHDR) is designed to achieve the goal of meeting patients’ end-of-life healthcare wishes by providing seamless access to advance directives across the continuum of care.
Proper set up and use of advance directives have been reported in peer-reviewed literature to have led to successful outcomes in reducing hospital admissions, ICU utilization and in-hospital deaths, and increasing hospice care. Registering end-of-life healthcare wishes with the AHDR will ensure wishes discussed are wishes honored. It will provide a reliable place to store, share and make accessible Arizonans’ advance directives so they will be honored, no matter who cares for the person.
The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated the critical importance of ensuring individuals have made their personal values and end-of-life wishes known and readily available. In response to being asked for her perspective, one emergency room physician stated, “I really wanted to bring awareness to some important topics that haven’t been well covered in the media, which are really being highlighted by this crisis, and that is advance care planning and for people to start thinking about what they would want done if they become acutely ill.”
While there has been an existing need for a registry that allows real-time access to front-line responders on healthcare directives, the need has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Sandy Severson, Vice President of Care Improvement at the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association, spoke to the good that is coming out of this most unprecedented time: “The awareness of the need for advance directives has risen, both among patients and the healthcare provider community.”