Pilot program sets stage for statewide electronic registry of vital medical orders

On Mon., Oct. 5, 2015, Gov. Edmund G. Brown, Jr., signed Senate Bill 19, establishing a pilot project—to be known as the California POLST eRegistry Pilot—which would enable healthcare providers to electronically submit and access patients’ POLST forms, ensuring immediate access to this critical information

Lois Wolk

Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis)

“A person’s decision relating to end-of-life care is among the most important one will ever make,” said Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis), the bill’s author. “Providing emergency medical personnel with immediate electronic access to these vital medical orders will help ensure patients’ wishes are honored.”

The Physicians Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form, introduced in California through legislation in 2008 (AB 3000—Wolk), clearly indicates what kinds of medical treatment patients do or do not want toward the end of their lives. Printed on bright pink paper and signed by both a doctor and patient, POLST helps give seriously-ill patients more control over the medical treatment they receive. The form works even if the patient loses the ability to communicate what he or she wants.

Despite the widespread use of POLST in California, a key challenge with the form’s effectiveness is the fact that, as a paper document that travels with the patient, the form can be easily lost.

The pilot project, to be coordinated by the Emergency Medical Services Authority, would inform the operation of a permanent, statewide POLST eRegistry. SB 19 requires that non-state funds be used for the development of the POLST eRegistry Pilot, as well as any related startup costs and evaluation.

Judy Thomas, JD“SB 19 gives our state a wonderful opportunity to identify and pilot the best technologies for a statewide registry, and is a key step in establishing an effective POLST eRegistry to help ensure patients’ treatment preferences can be accessed by healthcare providers in a split second,” said Judy Thomas, JD, CEO for the Coalition for Compassionate Care of California, the bill’s sponsoring organization.

SB 19 was also supported by the AARP, Alliance of Catholic Health Care, Arc and United Cerebral Palsy, California Collaboration, Blue Shield of California, California Accountable Physician Groups, California American College of Emergency Physicians, California Assisted Living Association, California Association of Physician Groups, California Chapter American College of Emergency Physicians, California Commission on Aging, California Hospital Association, Petaluma Valley Hospital, Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, and The Voice of Accountable Physician Groups.

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