By Kevin Truong
San Francisco Business Times
The quality of end-of-life care in the United States leaves a lot to be desired. In cases where patient dignity and desires ought to be paramount, early discussions about patient wishes often fall by the wayside in the rush to provide treatment.
As a physician, Ryan Van Wert saw dying patients who preferred to be at home with their families, instead of in the hospital hooked up to machines. Often a relative would show up a few days into the hospital stay with a crumpled up form that laid out the at-home care regimen that the patient desired.
Those early experiences led him to start Palo Alto-based startup Vynca in 2013 with co-founder Rush Bartlett to address the problem of creating advanced care documents and getting them in the hands of health care providers. The 18-person company is focused on creating secure, online versions of Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) forms, which are end-of-life medical orders that come out of a consultation between a medical provider and a patient.
POLST forms are brightly colored, single-page documents for patients with life-threatening or fatal illnesses that are meant to be carried wherever the patient goes. But that idea works better in theory than in practice.
“When these orders were needed, they were not available for care providers and the default is that we do everything to save the patient,” said Van Wert, who serves as the company’s CEO. “A lot of times they end up in a safe deposit box somewhere where nobody can access it.”