The California Health Care Foundation has announced a $3 million initiative aimed at developing an electronic registry for Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST).
POLST is a standardized form that clearly states what level of medical treatment a patient wants during a serious illness or toward the end of his or her life. Unlike an advance directive, the form is signed by the patient and a physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant and becomes a medical order that moves with the patient across care settings. While other states have established electronic registries that store, manage, and provide access to the forms, in California most POLST information is maintained as a pink piece of paper that stays with the patient or his/her medical record.
The new initiative will develop and test a secure cloud-based platform for electronic submission, storage, and retrieval of POLST data and help inform efforts to develop a permanent POLST registry in the state. The Coalition for Compassionate Care of California, the home of the state's POLST program, will administer the registry, while the California Emergency Medical Services Authority will serve as lead agency for the registry, which will be tested and evaluated in San Diego and Contra Costa counties. Learning from the pilot will help guide further expansion of the initiative statewide.
"The POLST form is a powerful tool for helping patients specify the treatments they do and don't want," said Kate O'Malley, senior program officer at CHCF. "But when the paper form is not immediately available, it can result in unwanted care for the patient. Building and testing an electronic database for POLST forms can improve access to this critical information."