States to connect advance directive registries to HIEs

Several states have created online advance directive registries with the intent of connecting them to statewide health information exchanges (HIEs), according to an article in American Medical News. Recently, Virginia became the latest state to take this action, joining Idaho, Montana, and West Virginia. Washington state also planned to start an advance directive registry, but had to drop that plan because of budget cuts.

Other states are partnering with organizations such as the U.S. Living Will Registry to file and store advance directives.

The advantage of connecting such a registry with a statewide HIE is that physicians can use their access to the HIE to view advance directives without having to contact a relative or caregiver. That could be beneficial when a patient is incapacitated and relatives are unavailable. While it's crucial for family members to view these documents if they are available, they might not have the password to a national registry. In that case, being able to access the directive through an HIE could be very helpful.

Most states are in the process of building HIEs that either complement or encompass local and regional exchanges. The federal government has provided more than half a billion dollars to the states for this purpose.

Virginia recently started a website that allows any resident to store an advance directive online for free. That data will be used to create its registry, which will be tied to a statewide HIE that's slated to launch in 2013.

Recording information about advance directives for patients 65 or older is a menu item on the list of Stage 1 Meaningful Use objectives. It is expected that these menu items will become core objectives in Stage 2.

To learn more:
- read the American Medical News article