National Healthcare Decisions Day Raises Awareness for Documenting Your Medical Decisions
April 29, 2021
April 16 was National Healthcare Decisions Day, a day dedicated to inspiring, educating, and empowering the public, clinicians, and associates to understand the importance of advance care planning.
Since 2016, National Healthcare Decisions Day has been managed by The Conversation Project under the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. This collaboration among national, state, and community organizations is committed to ensuring that all adults with decision-making capacity in the U.S. have the information and opportunity to communicate and document their healthcare decisions. Their goal is to increase awareness of the benefits of advance care planning so that Americans will be familiar with how to obtain and complete a healthcare power of attorney and/or advance directive and talk to others about their decisions.
“Making future healthcare decisions includes much more than deciding what care our patients would or would not want; it starts with clarifying values, identifying care preferences, and selecting an agent to express healthcare decisions if patients are unable to speak for themselves,” said Baligh Yehia, MD, MPP, MSc, Senior Vice President, Ascension, and President, Ascension Medical Group.
Advance care planning (ACP) is a critical component of this process of communication between clinicians and patients, which facilitates understanding, reflection, and discussion of goals and wishes for future health care decisions, including end-of-life care.
“Fundamentally, it is our opportunity to engage with patients and their family members to ask them what matters most at a critical time in their lives,” said Dr. Yehia.
During these conversations, the patient and clinician discuss the meaning of ACP and explore any fears or concerns on the part of the patient. The patient may make certain decisions regarding future care, including choosing a healthcare agent to speak on their behalf if they should become too sick or injured to communicate. They may review or complete relevant legal forms, known as advance directives.
To provide this needed support, Ascension has adopted a multi-year strategy for building primary palliative care knowledge and skills among providers and using technology to help identify and guide the care for patients with serious illness across the continuum. The work is led by Ascension’s national Palliative Care Steering Committee, co-chaired by Sara Damiano, LMSW, CCM, ACHP-SW, System Director, Palliative Care, Clinical & Network Services, and Rafael Bloise, MD, MBA, MA, Chief Medical Officer, Ascension Living.
“Talking about these topics with patients can be difficult. Listening to and responding appropriately to patients’ wishes takes time, skill, and authenticity,” said Rafael Bloise, MD, MBA, MA, Chief Medical Officer, Ascension Living.
“It’s important for our patients and their family members to have conversations with clinicians about their wants and needs concerning their ongoing healthcare — and for our care team members to feel supported in initiating those conversations,” said Sara Damiano, LMSW, CCM, ACHP-SW, System Director, Palliative Care, Clinical & Network Services.
As part of this strategy, Ascension has created two dedicated websites:
|1.||One with resources for clinical associates that address all aspects of providing primary palliative care, including ACP:
|2.||And one for consumers, explaining the role and importance of ACP:
Ascension also has created Allay, a free online tool to guide patients through ACP. The tool lets them document their preferences, making it easy to share their wishes with healthcare agents, family members, and others who need to know. Allay’s tool can be helpful in planning talks with healthcare team members and loved ones, too. It can be accessed on any smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer at allay.ascension.org
Finally, Ascension has set new goals for training care team members to communicate with patients about ACP, as well as serious illness, pain, and other symptoms. A new one-hour myLearning module designed for clinicians, social workers, pharmacists, nurses, care managers, physicians, and chaplains — will help associates to acquire new skills.
The course offers continuing education credits for healthcare workers through the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). This learning opportunity will provide 1.0 IPCE credits. Click here for details on the module and how to access it beginning April 1.