With increased therapeutic capabilities in healthcare today, many patients with multiple progressive comorbidities are living longer. They experience recurrent hospitalizations and often undergo procedures that are not aligned with their personal goals. That is why it is essential to discuss and document healthcare preferences prior to an acute event when significant interventions could occur, especially for patients with serious and progressive illness. Completion of an advance directive and a physician order for life-sustaining treatment (POLST) supports provision of goal-concordant care. Further, for patients who have do not attempt resuscitation (DNAR) orders or are diagnosed with advanced dementia, having a POLST is essential. This may be best accomplished with hospitalization discharge plans.
Our 896-bed academic medical center, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, launched a quality initiative in 2015 to complete POLSTs for patients being discharged with DNAR status or with dementia returning to a skilled nursing facility. As part of interdisciplinary progression of care rounds, emphasis was placed on those patients for whom POLST completion was indicated. Proactive, facilitated discussions with patients, family members, and attending physicians were initiated to support POLST completion. The completed forms were then uploaded to the electronic health record. Individual units and physicians received regular feedback on POLST completion rates, and the data were later shared at medical staff quality improvement meetings.
During the initiative, POLST completion rates for DNAR patients discharged alive rose from 41% in fiscal year (FY) 2014 to 75% in FY 2019. Similar improvement was seen for patients with dementia discharged to skilled nursing facilities, regardless of code status (rising from 14% in FY 2014 to 54% in FY 2019). Subsequently, we have expanded our efforts to include early discussion and completion of these advanced care planning documents for patients recently diagnosed with high mortality cancers (ovarian, pancreatic, lung, glioblastoma), focusing on the completion of advanced care planning documentation and palliative care referrals.