In a survey of more than 1,900 hospitals across all 50 states, 73 percent of respondents rated the patient experience as a “10” priority on a 10-point scale. At the same time, consumerism in healthcare is on the rise as healthcare costs are increasing and individuals are accountable for more healthcare expenses – leading to greater expectations for the patient experience.

February is National Wise Health Care Consumer Month, which advocates for people to understand their healthcare options, communicate with their providers and make educated decisions about their own health. This makes it the perfect time for both individuals and healthcare organizations to prioritize the patient-centric approach of advance care planning to help improve the patient experience.

Engaging in Advance Care Planning Conversations

Having advance care planning conversations and documenting end-of-life wishes promotes patient-centered care by focusing on people’s individual preferences for their medical care and treatment. Research shows that advance care planning also improves outcomes and patient experience while reducing health-related costs for high-risk, high-needs patients.

Resources to Help Patients Understand and Capture Care Preferences

Education and communication are crucial to helping patients and their loved ones better understand advance care planning and their options. This will put them in a better position to initiate and participate in advance care planning conversations with clinicians, which can often be uncomfortable.

As an industry we are seeing a growing number of tools and resources available to support patients and help guide these discussions.

  • Five Wishes which provides resources for individuals and their families including comprehensive guides and videos to help introduce and navigate ACP discussions with loved ones, educational pieces on how to document care choices and recommendations for what to do after the conversation has happened. Customized programs are also available for healthcare providers, faith communities, attorneys, financial advisors and any business or employer. Five Wishes offers an advance directive document for all 50 states. Vynca and Five Wishes entered a partnership in 2019.
  • The Conversation Project®, an initiative of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), is a public engagement initiative with a goal of helping everyone talk about their wishes for care through the end-of-life, so those wishes can be understood and respected. The organization offers a range of tools, including The Conversation Starter Guide, a free resource to help guide the process.
  • PREPARE for Your Care, a step-by-step program with video stories to help individuals have a voice in their medical care, which helps initiate conversations with providers and ultimately educates people on how to complete an advance directive. PREPARE and Vynca entered into a partnership in 2020.

Resources to Help Clinicians Guide Conversations

According to the Journal of American Geriatrics Society, while 99% of physicians agree that conversations about advance care planning are important, 68% say they have had no training in these challenging-but-necessary conversations. Lack of time, lack of understanding around the best way to start conversations and uncertainty as to who should initiative have traditionally been barriers for providers to engage in discussions.

In recent years, we have seen enhanced availability and adoption of resources to help providers initiate and guide advance care planning conversations with patients.

  • Ariadne Labs’ Serious Illness Care Program’s research, created by a team of palliative care experts, is focused on how to address advance care planning discussion barriers and best support non-palliative care clinicians to engage in these conversations with their seriously ill patients. The Serious Illness Conversation Guide (SICG) is at the center of the program, offering clinicians language to ask patients about their goals, values, and wishes. A digital version of the SICG is available within Vynca.
  • The Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) provides essential tools, training, technical assistance and connection for all clinicians caring for people with a serious illness. CAPC offers a wide range of toolkits for palliative care programs.

Education is Key

Education remains an extremely important component of the patient experience. Once educated and comfortable with the conversations, clinicians can guide patients through making future care decisions.

Educating patients empowers them to make their voices heard and makes it easier for them to share their care preferences, leading to a better patient, caregiver and clinician experience.

Healthcare organizations with a streamlined and coordinated approach to advance care planning are well-positioned to deliver an outstanding patient experience. Solutions like Vynca’s enable organizations to do just this. Our services coupled with our technology for providers and patients empower everyone involved in the process. This results in providing high-quality care at the end-of-life, and care that aligns with patient wishes. This also enables healthcare organizations to reduce end-of-life care costs. When knowing how and where a patient would like to die, providers can guide patients to the appropriate care setting.

Advance Care Planning = True Patient-centric Care

Patient-centric care is more important than ever, and having meaningful end-of-life conversations and properly documenting these in a central, accessible location is a key component. Patient experience is prioritized when individuals are empowered to have these conversations with clinicians and make decisions for their future care.

Healthcare organizations and providers play a key role. Prioritizing advance care planning with all adult patients, and talking about it early and often will help patients make decisions truly that reflect their goals and values. It also helps normalize the conversation around end-of-life, and this is something we should all be striving for.

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.