New Jersey Senior Care Providers Pilot End-of-Life Database

Tracking down end-of-life wishes for patients has long been plagued with much confusion, as senior housing providers know all too well. Some states still use paper copies of forms, if they use any documentation at all, but now one state is piloting a secure electronic database for these types of records to make them more accessible to medical providers.

The New Jersey Hospital Association (NJHA) is behind this initiative, NJ Spotlight reports

As of Friday, the association joined together with New Jersey State Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennet to unveil the new electronic Practitioner Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment  (POLST) initiative.

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The original POLST program was signed into law in 2011 in the state by Governor Chris Christie, but until now, there were only two copies of the form made — one for the the patient and one for their medical file. In an emergency, the physical copy of the form could be hard to locate and may not even have been available to emergency medical technicians (EMTs) or physicians at another hospital, according to the article.

“The portability and availability of end-of-life care wishes is critical in today’s health care environment and is the focus of the initiative,” Jon Dolan, president and CEO of the Health Care Association of New Jersey, a state affiliate of national senior living association Argentumtold Senior Housing News. “The electronic storage makes this information available at every level of care and especially if the person is unable to communicate [his or her] wishes.”

The POLST program has been endorsed in 21 states, is developing in 24 states, which includes New Jersey, and is mature in three states.

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Impact on Senior Housing

The electronic POLST pilot will start at hospitals and in long-term care facilities that are part of four health care systems in New Jersey, according to the article. 

In addition to ensuring medical professionals can access patients’ end-of-life wishes, the program will also help get the conversation started for families and residents at senior living facilities who may be having a difficult time bringing up end-of-life discussions, Dolan explained to SHN.

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“A benefit now is that this availability will be another way to get the end-of-life conversation started,” he said. “This is particularly important for those who receive post-acute care in nursing and rehabilitation centers and those residing in long-term care skilled nursing centers as well as New Jersey’s many assisted living centers.”

For private-pay senior housing providers, the cost for the technology to use the program is currently unknown, but the program as a whole will be overwhelmingly positive for the industry, Dolan added. 

Though the pilot has just begun, it is anticipated to expand within a year, Joseph Carr, chief information officer at the NJHA, explained in the Spotlight article.  

Written by Alana Stramowski

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