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Keeping Everyone in the Loop

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Photo by Mikhail Nilov.

Imagine for a moment a scary situation in which a health crisis of some kind lands you in an emergency room unconscious. Whatever the accident or crisis may have been, until you regain consciousness, your loved ones will have no way of knowing where you are or what has happened, unless you have provided documented permission to the provider for that information to be shared.

Your people may not even miss you until hours into a crisis if it happened at work or out of town and they are not expecting to see or hear from you until some time later.

It is a simple matter to proactively set up the needed permissions and get them into your medical records so that loved ones can be notified as soon as you are admitted to a hospital and determined to be unable to provide the required permission yourself.

Emergency Contacts and Permission to Share

Make sure you at least have emergency contacts in your records.

To put your mind at ease and avoid unnecessary worry or even panic on the part of your loved ones, you should contact your medical provider and make sure you at least have emergency contacts in your records. Beyond emergency contacts, fill out the forms for “Permission to Share” which allows a designated person or persons access to your medical records, enables them to discuss your care with providers when you are not present, enables them to make appointments for you, but does not allow them to make any decisions for you. These permissions may be changed or revoked at any time.

Beyond Emergency Contacts and Permission to Share, two more forms entered into your records can go a long way toward easing your mind when it comes to healthcare decisions.

Advanced Directive and Power of Attorney

An Advanced Directive is a document that states what you would like to happen in case of an emergency, and/or you are unable to make decisions for yourself. It can also be used for a patient with a certain diagnosis that will eventually affect their ability to make medical decisions for themselves. In this document, you can name a medical proxy or healthcare agent, as well as what you would like to happen if you are put on life support. This is a more legally complex form for which you can pay for legal help to complete, but simple do-it-yourself forms are available by doing a web search for “California Advance Directive Forms” and looking for a free or low-cost form that you fill out and download. Once the form is completed, you must sign it and have it notarized before submitting it for inclusion in your medical records. Free notary service is available locally to patients of SoHum Health and to members of Vocality Community Credit Union.

The documentation will be readily available to all providers served by the same medical data service.

Power of Attorney is a legal document that designates a person who can make medical decisions for the patient, including treatment options, medication, surgery, end-of-life care, etc. For medical care, patients need to have the documentation for a Medical Power of Attorney and the designated person can also be known as a patient’s healthcare agent or proxy. Forms for this designation are going to be found on the same website you choose for your advance directive. It is important for you to know that making this designation does not take away your right to make decisions for yourself, as long as you are able to do so.

Once all of these forms have been entered into your records, the documentation will be readily available to all providers served by the same medical data service as that subscribed to by Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District. The Epic Electronic Medical Records system is subscribed to by over 75,000 healthcare providers nationwide, so if you are receiving services from any of these providers and are unable to express your wishes, your loved ones can be notified, and your documents can be accessed so that your directions can be followed.

Securing Peace of Mind

In the event that you have an emergency or cannot speak for yourself at a provider outside the Epic system, you should keep information with your ID informing any such medical provider outside the EPIC system where your records can be accessed. All providers in the Providence system and Redwood Memorial in Fortuna utilize Epic, but hospitals in Arcata (Mad River Community), Willits, Ukiah, and Fort Bragg do not.

While going through the steps to set up these documents may seem a little grim or off-putting, you will be able to breathe much easier once it’s taken care of and your loved ones will thank you. By keeping your important information accessible to those you choose, we are once again reminded that we are all in this together, and we are stronger for it.

Many thanks to Marie Brown, Revenue Cycle Manager at SoHum Health for her assistance with this article.

Ann Constantino, submitted on behalf of the SoHum Health’s Outreach department.