IL Dept. of Public Health issues report on the feasibility of a statewide POLST/Advanced Directives electronic registry.

Two members of the POLST Illinois Committee recently collaborated with 10 other organizations on the Illinois POLST and Advance Directives Registry advisory committee. The committee, representing various stakeholders for POLST and end-of-life care issues, assisted the Illinois Department of Public Health in drafting a report required under a law passed in 2018. The report proposed necessary capabilities for a limited statewide registry of POLST forms, described potential challenges to its feasibility, and suggested ways to improve its viability. The committee and state agency concluded that a proposed statewide registry for POLST forms is a feasible endeavor for Illinois if the state initially limits registry capabilities and content to solely POLST forms and pursues a public-private partnership to fund the registry using existing technology procured from a third-party vendor. The committee recommended next steps to put Illinois in the best position possible to implement the statewide POLST registry, including further defining the system, obtaining rough capital and operating cost estimates, and exploring partnerships with external stakeholders to assist in running the system. The IL Department of Public Health stated that developing the proposed statewide registry will prove a challenge but one the state can overcome in collaboration with the right partners.

New Legislation in Illinois would improve access to POLST for seriously ill people.

People facing a serious, life-limiting illness have the right to control the use of life-sustaining treatments and should not experience barriers to documenting their decisions or having their preferences honored by their healthcare providers. A bill in the IL General Assembly sponsored by Senator Sara Feigenholtz, Democrat from Illinois’s 6th District in Chicago, would help make it easier for health care providers and patients to participate in the POLST model.

Additionally, this legislation would allow medical providers, long-tern care facilities and EMS/first responders to honor the National POLST form and forms used in other states when people travel to Illinois. Portability and reciprocity of POLST forms better assure the honoring of a patient’s wishes in our increasingly mobile society. The success of the POLST Illinois program benefits when national and other state programs share the same vision, adoption, and implementation to support seriously ill or frail individuals wanting to participate in the POLST model. Building in a presumption of validity in good faith for POLST forms signed by the patient or their appropriate substitute decision maker (SDM), regardless of the state or National form used protects EMS providers, medical providers, and health care facilities while supporting the delivery of care concordant with the patient’s expressed preferences.

Memorial Health System launches POLST Train the Trainer Program.

Springfield-based Memorial Health System has created a POLST Train the Trainer program to help long-term care staff in their service area gain knowledge of POLST and start important conversations with residents.

Currently, the program is available to skilled nursing facilities in a five-county area with plans to expand throughout their service-area. So far, 11 facilities have taken advantage of this free educational opportunity and 35 staff members have received training. The curriculum is aimed at helping trainees feel comfortable having conversations about goals of care with individuals who are frail or who are experiencing serious illness, as well as giving them the skills they need to complete POLST forms. After completing the course, trainees will be ready to educate others on the topic and serve as experts on POLST within their organizations.

“POLST is such an important tool for ensuring that people get the type of care they wish during a serious or life-limiting illness,” said Julie Bobell, advance care planning coordinator for Memorial Health System. “We’re proud to offer this program to raise awareness and help nursing home staff in our area become more comfortable and proficient.”

Contact [email protected] for more information about training programs like this one.