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Legal Planning to Address Alzheimer’s Disease

Would your advance directive be readily available in an emergency?

After procrastinating for several years, you decided to engage an estate planning attorney to prepare your estate plan. Now that the plan is completed, where do you store your Advance Directive /Health Care Power of Attorney, Living Will and HIPPA Authorization so that they are available in an emergency? At McDonald Law Firm, we enroll every client who engages the firm, to draft at minimum a “Essential Estate Plan” (Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney, Living Will, and HIPAA Authorization), in the DocuBank electronic registry for advance directives to make sure your advance directives are always available at the hospital. Now there are new reasons why you need this instant access.


New report exposes issues with accessing advance directives in an emergency

Doctors cannot easily get hold of their patients’ advance directives at the hospital, even in an emergency, and, Electronic Health Records (EHRs) don’t help solve this availability problem, according to a news report in USA Today/Kaiser Health News.

Advance directives, as you may recall, are the documents that give you control over your medical care if you’re unable to speak for yourself. At McDonald Law Firm, we create these documents as part of a client’s estate plan. In the advance directive, you designated someone to make health care decisions for you if you can’t, and also gave guidance on the types of treatments you would (or would not want).

Ironically, electronic medical records, which are supposed to help find patient information, create their own problems. One problem is that different medical records are incompatible, meaning that hospitals usually can’t share your advance directive among different hospitals, or even more surprisingly, between different departments of the same hospital. As a result, you could be admitted to an Emergency Department, which may have one EHR, and it might not be able to get hold of your advance directive in the hospital’s main EHR.

Another problem is that it takes too long to find your advance directive because most EHRs aren’t set up to store one. “If medical staff are not able to access the advance directive quickly and easily, they’re honestly likely not to use it,” says Torrie Fields, senior program manager for palliative care at Blue Shield of California. In addition, patients frequently (and understandably) forget to bring their advance directives with them.

Lack of availability of your advance directive can be an especially big problem in the ER, where it’s extremely important that your doctors and loved ones have instant access to these documents and therefore to your wishes. A 2015 survey of ER doctors found that 93% are “less frustrated” when advance directives are “easily accessible,” and the vast majority of them said the documents let them provide better care and that family members are more satisfied.

These problems are precisely why McDonald Law Firm register its clients in DocuBank as part of your estate plan. We’ve heard the horror stories, and we wanted to make sure your doctors and loved ones can immediately obtain your advance directives so that you can get the best care — the care that you want.


How to Use Your DocuBank Card

Simply give your DocuBank card to hospital staff when they ask you for your advance directive. They can get a copy immediately. (They’ll do this by visiting the DocuBank website or by calling the 800-number on the card to receive a fax.) You can also call DocuBank yourself to have your documents sent. Just ask the hospital staff for their fax number and call DocuBank on your cell phone! It works in any hospital, regardless of what system they’re using.


Call McDonald Law Firm Today

Not sure about what your advance directives mean or want to make changes? Contact McDonald Law Firm at (443) 741-1088 to schedule a consultation with Andre O. McDonald, a knowledgeable Howard County estate planning attorney.



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For help with estate planning, special needs planning or elder law throughout Howard, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Anne Arundel, and Baltimore County; and Baltimore City, contact McDonald Law Firm, LLC.

McDonald Law Firm, LLC

Columbia Office

10500 Little Patuxent Pkwy, #420
Columbia, MD 21044-3563

Bethesda Office:

(By Appointment Only)

7315 Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 800 West
Bethesda, MD 20814

Washington, DC Office:

2101 L Street, N.W., Suite 300
Washington, DC 20037

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