The board of directors of the California Health Care Foundation (CHCF) has approved a two-and-a-half-year project to develop an electronic registry for Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST).
POLST is a standardized form that clearly states what level of medical treatment a patient wants during serious illness or toward the end of life. POLST gives seriously ill patients more control over their treatment and also helps them talk with their health care team and loved ones about their choices. In this way, POLST can help reduce patient and family suffering and make sure patient wishes are known and honored. Unlike an advance directive, POLST is signed by the patient and a physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant, and becomes a medical order that moves with the patient across care settings.
While New York, Oregon, Utah, and West Virginia have established electronic registries that store, manage, and provide access to POLST forms, in California most POLST information is maintained only as a pink piece of paper that stays with the patient or the medical record. When POLST information is needed during emergencies or when a patient is unable to communicate, a paper form may not be readily available, hindering care or resulting in care that is against the patient’s wishes.