September is Healthy Aging Month, which is intended to provide adults ages 45+ with practical ideas to improve their physical, mental, social and financial well-being. The observance encourages people in this demographic to examine their current life situation and think about what they want in their future – making it an opportune time for individuals to prioritize advance care planning (ACP).

A survey from the National Poll on Healthy Aging found that less than 50 percent of adults over 50 have formally recorded their medical care preferences in the event that they get seriously ill. While ACP conversations can be difficult and center around sensitive topics, it is a critical exercise for individuals to think about their values and goals and document their end-of-life wishes accordingly.

The benefits of ACP are numerous and include, but are certainly not limited to:

Promoting Patient-Centered Care

When someone engages with their healthcare providers about ACP and makes their voice heard, they are opening the door to ensure that that they are receiving truly personalized care. In fact, research shows that ACP conversations and documentation promote patient-centered care by focusing on people’s individual preferences for their medical care and treatment. Reports also reveal that ACP improves outcomes and patient experience while reducing health-related costs for high-risk, high-needs patients.

Detailed information about the different types of advance care planning documents can be found here.

Ensuring Patients’ Care Wishes are Fulfilled

ACP shared decision-making results in higher satisfaction for patients, their families, caregivers, and providers and ensures people receive appropriate care that meets their goals and values. To realize the full potential of ACP, documents must be legally valid and accessible at the point of care. Currently, 87 percent of paper forms are still not available in an emergency situation, which means many patients may receive extreme measures when they really wanted palliative or hospice care.

 At Vynca, our clinicians leverage telehealth to engage in high-quality goals of care conversations and digitally capture those care preferences through our technology. These goals can be shared across all care settings, ensuring personalized, goal concordant care is provided at end-of-life. This digitized and personalized approach to ACP enables providers to deliver care that truly reflects patients’ wishes.

Removing the Decision-Making Burden on Loved Ones

Caring for an aging family member is a very emotional and draining experience. Documenting care wishes removes the added stress of trying to guess what a person would want to happen at the end of life. There is evidence that ACP:

While ACP might seem like an uncomfortable process, working with providers to accurately outline end-of-life care wishes should be an essential component of healthy aging. By taking proactive control of care decisions, people will be in a better position to receive personalized treatment ­– making the experience better for themselves, their families and their providers.

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.