In recent years there has been growing public awareness of end of life decisions and the importance of documenting advance healthcare decisions. In fact, April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day, a nationwide educational event founded by McGuireWoods partner Nathan Kottkamp. Advance directives are legal documents, prepared by patients in advance of the need for healthcare services, that directs the healthcare the patient does or does not want if he or she becomes unable to make decisions. Advance directives may include durable powers of attorney, living wills and organ donation directions. Nathan recently discussed advance directives, including issues arising out of healthcare reform debates, on Countdown with Keith Olbermann.
From the perspective of many healthcare providers, providing information about advance directives is required by law. The Conditions of Participation in the Medicare and Medicaid programs require hospitals, critical access hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, nursing facilities, home health agencies, providers of home healthcare (and for Medicaid purposes, providers of personal care services), hospices, ambulatory surgery centers, and dialysis facilities to inquire about and provide information to patients regarding advance directives. Further, the Conditions of Participation require all of these healthcare providers, except ASCs and dialysis providers, to provide public education about advance directives. Additionally, healthcare accreditation bodies Joint Commission and AAAHC have accreditation standards requiring facilities to honor advance directives.
In connection with the national focus on advanced healthcare decisions, new companies have emerged to assist patients and healthcare providers with the advance directives process. Embark Health, for example, has developed and is actively distributing Advance Directive Solution (ADS), a comprehensive online and telephonic resource with all the information and legally current forms to create an enforceable advance directive. Embark Health is also in the process of rolling out The Personal Legacy Solution (PLS), an electronic repository for tracking the location of assets, the location of other important items or documents, and for storing important messages to loved ones (all of which will be retrievable in accordance with the individual member’s specifications). Embark Health markets these products directly to patients as well as to and through large systems such as health plans, hospitals and other providers. Burgeoning companies like Embark Health and others may provide an opportunity for investors interested in healthcare and healthcare IT services.