Objective: The present study sought to assess the clarity of Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) or Living Will (LW) documents alone or in combination with a video message/testimonial (VM).
Methods: Emergency medical services (EMS) personnel responded to survey questions about the meaning of stand-alone POLST and LW documents and those used in conjunction with emergent care scenarios. Personnel were randomized to receive documents only or documents with VM. Questions sought a code status for each scenario and a resuscitation decision. Code status responses were analyzed for consensus (95% response rate), resuscitation responses for correct treatment decisions.
Results: The survey response rate was 85%. Approximately half of emergency medical technician (EMT) respondents were EMT basic, and half EMT respondents were paramedic, with an average age of 42 years. Less than half had previous POLST/LW training averaging 2 hours. Consensus failed to be reached for stand-alone documents. For clinical scenarios, responses to POLST documents specifying do not resuscitate/comfort measures only or cardiopulmonary resuscitation/full treatment exceeded 80% for code status designation and correct resuscitation decisions. Other POLST resuscitation/treatment combinations showed more disparate responses, and most benefited from VM with changes in responses of 20% or more (P <= 0.025). Code status responses to LW-based scenarios evidenced a nonconsensus majority (79%-83%) that was significantly affected with VMs (>=12%, P <= 0.004); half evidenced large changes in resuscitation decisions (49%, P < 0.001).
Conclusions: Document clarity, judged by consensus response, was rarely evidenced. video message/testimonial seems to be a helpful aid to both POLST and LWs. Standardized education and training reveal opportunities to improve patient safety to ensure patient wishes.
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