Ensure your patients' advance care planning documents are available when needed most

With National Advance Care Planning Week coming up from 20 – 26 March, it’s a good reminder to talk to your patients and clients about making their wishes known when they cannot speak for themselves by preparing advance care planning documents and uploading them to My Health Record.  

Storing advance care planning documents in My Health Record means your patient and any healthcare providers they see have secure access to these important documents whenever they’re needed. This is particularly vital when the person is travelling or in an emergency situation, as it gives their treating team rapid access to this information, thereby ensuring a better understanding of their preferences and the type of care they may want.  

The Australian Digital Health Agency (the Agency)’s recent video highlights the benefits of uploading advance care planning documents to My Health Record. CEO of Elderly Chinese Home Minerva Lau explains, “Having an advance care plan documented electronically is so very important when we are having a medical emergency. Everybody is very stressed, it will be too late to ask the resident’s family to make a decision at such a painful moment. If we can have that decided before the bad things come up, it really minimises the stress and minimises the confusion when we are trying to communicate with health professionals like the hospital or the paramedics.” 

As Advance Care Planning Australia Program Director Xanthe Sansome says, “Only 14 per cent of older Australians have advance care directives to guide decision making at the time of a health crisis. Research and consultation led by Advance Care Planning Australia (ACPA) also revealed completion of advance care directives (ACDs) for preferences of care and/or to appoint a substitute decision-maker is not routinely occurring as part of care planning in Australia. The prevalence of ACDs in a person’s health record across sectors was 6% in general practice, 11% in hospitals, and 38% in residential aged care. Ensuring people have choice and control over health care decisions, now and into the future, is an important component of quality aged care. We are calling on health professionals to support consenting patients to prepare advance care directives, make them readily available, and access them when the person cannot make decisions for themselves.” 

Patients can add their advance care planning document to My Health Record and update it at any time. Software vendors are currently in the process of enabling the capability for health and aged care providers to upload advance care planning documents to My Health Record on behalf of the consumer via clinical information systems. 

Contact details of advance care document custodians (someone who holds a copy of the documents) can also be uploaded so that healthcare providers can contact the custodian to get access to the documents if needed.  
To find more information about uploading advance care planning documents to My Health Record, visit the  Australian Digital Health Agency’s website.  

The Agency has developed a set of national guidelines to assist healthcare providers in supporting patients wishing to add advance care planning documents to their My Health Record.  
The guidelines, developed as part of the National Goals of Care Collaborative led by the Agency and the Western Australian Department of Health (DoH) provide information about how to store and access advance care planning documents and goals of care documents for the purposes of supporting person-centred care.