Category Archives: Trends

What Quarantine Has Taught Us – Digital Health is a Must

Digital health tools — whether telehealth apps, electronic medical records or advance care plans — have become critically important over the past several months as people across the country stay home to flatten the curve. 

Doctors and healthcare providers have quickly adapted to caring for patients without seeing them in-person in order to ensure preventative health services, chronic condition care and treatments continue despite the coronavirus pandemic. Even as  states slowly reopen, our new normal is largely more digital and will remain that way. 

There’s never been a more critical time to get acquainted with the many digital health tools available to patients and consumers. We’re seven months into home quarantine with no return insight to what we all know as normal, and we must find ways to move aspects of our health and wellness online. 

Online resources that provide support to help keep your health in check, which range from online wellness tips to websites that help you organize your medical documents, have seen a significant uptick in traffic and usage during this pandemic. Online fitness classes that can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle can be found on every corner of the net and telehealth is now available from many providers – but what about advance care planning? Advance care plans are vital, especially now, and if you haven’t made one yet it’s time to start thinking about it. 

Advance care plans are critical to ensure you have a voice in your care in the event you cannot speak for yourself so doctors are able to  provide care that respects your wishes. They also allow people to designate a health proxy if they’re unable to speak for themselves. 

Especially now, with  COVID-19, it is essential to have an advance care plan in case you or your loved one cannot dictate healthcare desires. If you’re one of 75% of Americans over the age of 18 that don’t have a plan, now’s the time to make one. If you’re one of the far too few people who do have one, it’s likely out of date, and even worse, on paper! 

Many of us are quarantining far from home, worrying about loved ones and their health and well-being during this time. By encouraging them to create an advance care plan, you can ensure that their wishes will be respected in an emergency, even if you are not there. An advance care plan clearly articulates the needs of your loved ones to physicians and encourages families to have the tough conversations about health priorities that are necessary in this moment.

MyDirectives.com is a free online platform that allows you to upload video, paper documents and more and has an accompanying iphone app. Plans created online are more accessible and can be taken anywhere, unlike paper copies that are often hard to find or out of reach in times of crisis. Another benefit of creating an online plan is that your plan can be altered at any time and shared with family as well as medical providers whenever necessary. 

In an emergency we also have to ask ourselves, would we remember to bring all essential documents and would we know where to find them? A digital advance care plan makes it easy to access important materials and leaves you with a little less to worry about during a health crisis. 

Many people still find comfort in carrying something with them, in case your cell phone dies, or you’re locked out of a loved one’s phone and you serve as their proxy. MyDirectives is one digital platform that also has an accompanying wallet card that allows doctors to quickly access your medical history when you arrive at the hospital. Doctors can scan this card to access your medical history as well as your advance care plan. 

Now more than ever, we must utilize the technology available to us to ensure our safety and protect what is important to us when disaster strikes. By planning ahead and using your resources, you and your loved ones can be prepared for any medical emergency. Protect the wishes of yourself and your loved ones, make an advance care plan today. 

National Family Caregivers Month

Do you care for a loved one? Perhaps an aging parent?

You’re not alone.

According to the Caregiving in the USA study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, nearly 50 million Americans are helping an adult loved one care for themselves.

This month, we here at MyDirectives thank and celebrate you for your dedication and sacrifice as a part of National Family Caregivers Month. The National Family Caregivers Association writes:

In 1994, the National Family Caregivers Association began promoting the celebration of family caregivers during the week of Thanksgiving. President Clinton signed the first presidential proclamation in 1997 and every president since – Democrat and Republican alike – has issued an annual proclamation appreciating family caregivers. As interest grew in family caregiving issues, National Family Caregivers Week became National Family Caregivers Month.

New to caregiving? Or have you been caring for a relative for a while? Here are some resources to help you out:

Don’t forget you need to make sure you’re taken care of as well. Our partners over at CareConscious have a support plan to help you do so as well as resources available for you. Check them out here.

End-of-Life Lessons From Doctors

Doctors deal with death a lot more often than those of us who don’t practice medicine. For many specialists, it’s part of the job sometimes, and it inevitably colors the way they ultimately deal with their own deaths.

So when it comes to their end-of-life decisions, do doctors die differently than the rest of us? 

Ken Murray, a clinical assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Southern California, examined this question in a thoughtful piece on Zócalo Public Square. His observations certainly provide food for thought. Murray highlights survey findings from a Johns Hopkins Precursors Study:

According to the study, 65 percent of the doctors (or former medical students) had created an advance directive, i.e. a set of legal documents spelling out in advance what sort of end-of-life care they would like. Only about 20 percent of the public does this. When asked whether they would want cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, if they were in a chronic coma, about 90 percent of the Johns Hopkins doctors said no. Only about 25 percent of the public gives the same answer.

I discussed the tense, and often tragic, circumstances that surround many of the treatment decisions made in hospitals. Often, I noted, family members or medical staff effectively override the wishes of a dying patient. The studies I’ve found on this suggest that family plays a particularly big role in taking things in an unintended direction,especially when there’s nothing in writing[we added the italics].

Now that’s quite jarring. But also not entirely surprising. From our perspective, the question is, what do you do with this information? And we like Murray’s constructive conclusion on this matter and his advice for patients:

We don’t like to think about death. But that avoidance is one reason so many Americans fail to arrange an advance directive, even when they are severely ill. When patients of mine would come to my office accompanied by a family member, I often asked the patient how he or she wanted to die. I didn’t do it because the patient was on the brink of death, or even sick. I did it because I wanted the patient to think about the question and also to make sure that a loved one got to hear the answer [again, the italics are ours]. Unwanted futile measures, prolonged deaths, and hospital deaths remain commonplace in America and many other places. But they don’t have to be. It just requires our doctors and, no less, the rest of us to come to terms with the inevitable.

Crossposted at MyDirectives.Com

Trend Alert: Medical Directive Tattoos?

The nature of our work means that we understand why people would go to great lengths to ensure their end of life wishes are known to loved ones.

In fact, that’s the reason why we’re around — to get more people to think about this stuff and make their decisions clear.

But we have to admit when we heard about people getting tattoos to convey medical wishes or conditions — even we were little surprised.

KYPost.com reports on a recent study:

The first time Jimbo Carriero died, it lasted only a few minutes.

“I didn’t see the white lights everyone talks about, but I sure got an overwhelming feeling of total bliss,” Carriero said of complications following a stent procedure after a heart attack in September 2008. “It was beautiful, just a beautiful feeling, like all my bills had been paid.”

So the next time, he wants to stay there.

The 52-year-old owner of Body Branding Tattoo Emporium in Naples had “Do Not Resuscitate” tattooed on his chest a year later.

He is among a growing number of people who want a more permanent medical alert. The Canadian Medical Association Journal reported in May that medical tattooing appears to be increasing, partly because the often-pricey medical alert bracelets can be lost or broken, some people prefer tattoos, and others can’t wear jewelry at work. The journal detailed tattoos for diabetes, blood types and end-of-life wishes.

It’s quite an interesting approach! But as the article points out, first responders aren’t accustomed to looking for medical tattoos for clues about how to handle a patient. It’s also less painful to update a medical alert bracelet than it is to update a tattoo with a change of opinion or a new medical condition.

Some might read this and think it’s a great idea. We’ll leave the debate about the pros and cons up to you. But while we do love that it creates discussion about such an important topic, we think the best idea is to create an advance medical directive to ensure the details about your medical condition and end-of-life wishes aren’t missed.

Photo: July 12, 2012 — Spencer Cootware has blood blotted from his arm while receiving a tattoo about his aorta from artist Shane Williams. (SHNS photo by Corey Perrine / Naples Daily News) (RS)

Crossposted on MyDirectives.com