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7 strategies to get patients talking about end-of-life care


Ways primary care practices can educate patients about advance directives and empower them to make decisions about their health and quality of life.

advance directive, patient engagement, living will, end-of-life care, death

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Primary care physicians (PCPs) and office staff play key roles in reducing the difficulties patients have in discussing advance directives (ADs). Here are seven productive ways you can educate and empower patients while maximizing contact time during medical visits.

Talk about ADs on a regular basis.

Every PCP should be discussing advance directives at the annual exam, but the more often it’s discussed, the better, experts say.

Use your medical assistants.

Need to maximize your time? Train your medical assistants in how to ask about advance directives in an empowering way while they are rooming patients and updating their current medical record information.

Take a look at the calendar.

April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day. Consider using April as your practice’s launch point for ongoing initiatives relating to advance directives. Click here to learn more and obtain resources to use in your practice office.

Post educational materials in lobby and exam rooms.

Posters can be very effective as conversation-starters. Visual educational materials also can help normalize topics that are difficult to talk about.

Capture patients’ attention while they’re waiting for services.

Provide leaflets and/or posters in the exam room that specifically encourage the documentation of their wishes with their medical professionals.

Have your state’s printed forms available for anyone who requests them.

There’s no time like the present: Don’t thwart a patient’s interest or initiative in the subject by telling them they should download the form later from home.

Offer reputable resources.

Provide additional information, both as take-home print fliers and add a section with links on your website.

Pamela Tabar, CADDCT, CDP, is a healthcare writer based in Medina, Ohio.

Read more: How to engage patients in advanced directives

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