The Commonwealth of Virginia Advance Health Care Directive Registry

End of life planning is an uncomfortable topic for most people, but it is an important one nonetheless. The best way to deal with planning for the end of life stage is through an Advance Health Care Directive.

Advance Health Care Directives are legal documents and they are not just for individuals who are terminally ill or critically injured. These are pieces of legal documentation that even healthy individuals should think getting about as no one really knows when their end of life wishes will need to be carried out.

Unfortunately, getting an Advance Health Care Directive isn’t always enough. It is of no use to the individual if doctors in a hospital are not able to access the directives when they are needed. The document can’t be lying in a shoebox somewhere, it has to be in a more accessible place.

That is why an Advance Health Care Directive Registry is so important. It gives people who have taken the time to get their own Advance Health Care Directive a safe place to store their documents. A registry stores Advance Health Care Directives in a safe and secure registry website and also gives the individual and their emergency contacts access to the document.

With most registries the individuals first get an Advance Health Care Directive drawn up and then they fill out the forms to place their Advance Health Care Directives in the registry. When filling out the forms they are usually given the option of designating two emergency contacts. These contacts will have access to the secure registry website in case the individual is unable to produce their Advance Health Care Directive when they are incapacitated.

In the Commonwealth of Virginia when a registrant completes their forms and places their directive in the registry they are sent a registry ID card with their name and registration number on it. The registration number is used to look up their Advance Health Care Directive once they are logged in.

The card also has room on it for the individual to include information for their two emergency contacts and their primary care provider. The emergency contacts can be issued a copy of the individual’s registry card if that is what the individual desires.

In the recent past, end of life wishes have been a major item in the news. There have been several examples of end of life conflict with families that could have been avoided if an Advance Directive document had been used. In most of these cases end of life wishes were not designated in a document or they weren’t accessible.

This has prompted several other states besides Virginia to create Advance Health Care Directive Registries to help their citizens avoid conflict when it comes to their end of life wishes. These states are aware that individuals are sometimes kept alive against their wishes because hospitals don’t have access to a definitive end of life care document. They have designed and funded them in different ways but they are quite similar in the way they are set up.

The legislative bodies in the Commonwealth of Virginia created the registry with a bill that funded it and after an extensive search, they chose a company to host and operate it. Virginia is ahead of most states when it comes to their Advance Directive Registry because they are connecting it to their statewide Health Information Exchange (HIE).

By connecting their Advance Health Care Directive Registry their HIE, Virginia hospitals will have easier access to different types of Advance Directives including living wills, a durable power of attorney for healthcare, do not resuscitate (DNR) orders and medical directives. These documents will also be easier to share through the healthcare system in Virginia because HIEs allow the easy and secure transfer of medical information between different facilities.

The Commonwealth of Virginia has the right idea by deciding to safeguard its citizen’s documents in a secure website that will connect to their state HIE’s technology. The future of healthcare will have HIEs as the standard and Advance Health Care Directive Registries will be an important part of this.