Research shows that just one in three U.S. adults completes any type of advance directive for end-of-life care. However, stories of severely ill individuals in hospitals without their loved ones by their side during the COVID-19 pandemic thrust the need for the digitization of advance care planning into the spotlight and inspired many people, young and old, to have end-of-life conversations in 2020. Creating a digital advance care plan not only ensures that individual’s care preferences are always accessible within the EHR, but that they are also being honored, especially in cases where patients are too ill to speak for themselves.

Aggressive, Life-Saving Treatment

While we know that most people would prefer to have a say in how they live their final days and what interventions and comfort measures are most important, many people just do not. Many are still dying on ventilators or receiving aggressive life-saving treatment instead of receiving the palliative or hospice care they may desire. In many of these cases, extreme measures are taken simply because conversations have not been had or providers did not have advance care planning documents easily accessible at the point of care. During this pandemic when clinical resources, and ICU resources more specifically, are being stretched to the limit, the importance of having these conversations and information captured and available is increasingly critical.

At Vynca, we are proud of the role that we continue to play in ensuring that individuals’ end-of-life experiences are dignified and consistently in line with care preferences and goals at all times, leaving zero room for error. Our solutions better prepare healthcare providers to guide high-quality conversations, empowering patients to make their voices heard and resulting in care that truly reflects patient wishes.

A Lookback on 2020

In partnership with a variety of healthcare organizations, the number of people leveraging our advance care planning solutions to ensure their care preferences are easily and consistently accessible when and where they are needed has grown exponentially in 2020. Last year, Vynca generated 1.16 million advance care planning documents, representing a 64 percent increase in document completion over the past 12 months. To support this growth, Janet Cutcliff joined the organization as chief operating officer, Andrew Cylkowski was hired as chief growth officer.

To-date, 872,000 unique individuals in all 50 states have advance care planning documents in the Vynca solution. We are honored that so many individuals trust us to support them during the complex and crucial advance care planning process. Now, more people will be able to see the benefits of digitizing a previously paper-based process to help care teams avoid medical errors, adverse events, unwanted health care utilization and poor patient, caregiver and clinician experience.

Vynca also helped support a growing number of healthcare organizations in value-based care contract arrangements, enabling them to provide better overall care for patients while lowering the exorbitant cost associated with end-of-life care. Implementations of our solution spanned a variety of valued healthcare organizations nationwide, including Intermountain Healthcare,  Ochsner Health, and Spectrum Health.

Looking Ahead

We look to build on the momentum advance care planning has experienced in 2020. While the vaccine should bring some relief to the healthcare system and how we live our daily lives, it is safe to say that advance care planning will continue to be top-of-mind for many in the years to come.

I was also reassured of this last night when I was reading the Monday Morning Update on HIStalk. The new poll asks: Which advance directive documents could your family or friends quickly find if you became medically unresponsive? This is an important question we should all be asking ourselves.

We should also be asking, can clinicians quickly find my plan to make appropriate treatment decisions? It’s also important that health IT teams are asking, as well as the clinicians making these treatment decisions. As the default in healthcare is to perform life-saving treatments unless otherwise stated, it’s important to have these end-of-life wishes available so they can be honored.

About the Author

Ryan Van Wert

Dr. Van Wert is a co-founder and CEO of Vynca. In addition to his role at Vynca, Dr. Van Wert is a part-time Clinical Assistant Professor at Stanford University, where he maintains a small clinical practice.

Prior to Vynca, Dr. Van Wert co-founded AWAIR, Inc., a medical device company focused on reducing complications for critically ill patients, which was acquired by Cook Medical Technologies in 2015.