Ensuring you get the medical care you want in an emergency is a team effort which includes your attorney, your doctor, your healthcare agent, and your family and loved ones. But none of these people can be part of the team if they are unaware of your preferences. Here are five things to discuss with your doctor to make sure he or she is in the loop:
1. Your Advance Health Care Directive or Living Will. If you have already created a health care directive or living will we strongly suggest you give your primary care physician a copy of the document. It can be even more helpful to briefly discuss the document with your doctor and have him or her sign off on it, if possible. This prevents any unwelcome surprises, should an accident occur.
2. Your wishes for medical treatment if you are incapacitated. Part of creating an Advance Health Care Directive is outlining your wishes for medical treatment if you are incapacitated. This is more than just making a decision about a DNR (discussed in item #5), this also includes what medications or treatments you would like to receive and under what circumstances, it includes where you would like to receive long-term treatment if necessary, and it includes who you would like to be involved in medical decision-making (from your spouse, to your parents, to your favorite doctor or doctors.)
3. Your health care agent. This is the person who will be making medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself. We are not suggesting you bring your chosen agent in to meet your doctor, but briefly telling your doctor who the person is (your spouse, your brother, your daughter) and why you chose them can make all the difference.
4. Your HIPAA Authorization. This is the document that gives medical staff permission to share information about your health status with certain people. You can sign a generic HIPAA Authorization with your attorney as part of your estate plan, but it is likely that your physician and your local hospital will have their own forms to be signed. Ask your doctor how to ensure that the right people are getting the right information in case of emergency.
5. The inclusion (or lack) of a DNR statement in your medical file. We always hope that this will never be necessary, but we all learned our lesson from the Terri Shiavo case and know that it is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your end-of-life wishes. Talk to your doctor about under what circumstances you would or wouldn’t want life-saving treatment, and the best way to include these wishes in your health care directive AND in your medical file.