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Planning for the Unexpected: Advance Care Planning

ACP Nov 15 041At the end of life, or during critical illnesses, patients are often unable to make important medical care decisions. This places a heavy responsibility and burden on families, as well as health care providers. However, this can be alleviated through advance care planning, the process in which deliberate decisions are made by individuals about their health care preferences and who they want to make decisions for them if they become unable to speak for themselves.

Advance care planning has recently emerged as an area of great need. “The process of holding conversations with patients to identify the care they want in advance of need promotes compassionate care,” says Dr. Scott Tibbits, one of the program’s medical champions. “It also improves health care experiences for patients and families, as well as for providers.”

Through generous donor funding, Providence has launched a coordinated effort to meet this need by creating an Advance Care Planning program in Southwest Washington. In collaboration with Honoring Choices Pacific Northwest—a resource to help individuals make advance care decisions—our newly created program will provide patients and their families the opportunity to discuss their health care wishes in advance of critical illnesses or final days of life.

“We have already trained 30 advance care planning facilitators and we are working hard to incorporate them into all of our hospitals and clinics,” says Sandy Adams, advance care planning project leader. “Our goal is to seamlessly integrate these services throughout Southwest Washington, so they become part of routine and standard care.”

“We want to make these conversations easier for patients and family members so that we, as care providers, know in advance the care patients wish to have in keeping with their goals and values,” says Dr. Tibbits.

Medrice Coluccio, chief executive of Providence Health and Services in Southwest Washington, believes this program is a critical step toward improving critical illness and end-of-life care. “These are very difficult conversations, even under the best of circumstances. But if we, as caregivers, can learn to navigate these discussions, we can remove a major difficulty that many families face, especially during the final days of life.”

For more information on the program, contact Sandy Adams at 360-493-5377.