Advance Directives, Their Importance and Interfaith Medical Center’s Commitment to Assist
Monday, April 16th, 2018 was National Health Care Decisions Day and marked the beginning of National Health Care Decisions Week. National Health Care Decisions Week is an initiative of the Conversation Project with the primary goal of demystifying health care decision-making and bringing the topic of Advance Care Planning to the forefront of health care conversations.
Advance Care Planning is a key patient right, referenced in the New York State Hospital Patient’s Bill of Rights and protected by multiple laws on the local, state and federal level. Unfortunately, research shows that patients are often not aware or not taking advantage of Advance Care Planning.
Advance Directives are instrumental in explaining to patients, loved ones and providers how patients want their medical decisions to be made when they are too ill or incapacitated. These directives are legal documents that are relied upon by family, friends and health care professionals for information about the health care desires of the patient, including who is allowed to make health care decisions on the patient’s behalf. Advance Directives can be initiated through your health care provider; in addition, they can also be initiated by your attorney, a social worker and by existing state and city agencies such as the Office of Adult Protective Services.
Juan Contreras, Assistant Vice President of Patient Experience at Interfaith Medical Center, leads an effort at Interfaith to increase the number of patients who initiate Advance Directives. “On many occasions, patients often state, ‘My family will make my decisions,’ but it’s often not very clear which family member will make the decisions; this can cause confusion and discord,” said Mr. Contreras. He laments that “when patients don’t have an Advance Directive, the surrogate decision-maker can be someone who does not clearly understand the patient’s wishes, leaving decision-makers to make decisions without knowing what the patient would want.” Mr. Contreras references his experiences with patients and their families who did not have Advance Directives and believes they could have benefitted from them upon becoming incapacitated; he refers to these instances as his “call to action.”
At Interfaith Medical Center, Advance Care Directives are part of their commitment to patient-centered care. The directives are welcomed and seen as a sign of a patient who is an active and willing participant in their health care decision-making. “When patients have Advance Directives, it is a benefit because it eliminates guesswork in caring for patients in the way they would have wanted to be cared for,” states Dr. Oday Alhafidh, M.D.
Interfaith Medical Center welcomes those in the community to reach out to Mr. Contreras and the Patient Experience team for more information on Advance Care Directives. The office of Patient Experience welcomes all calls at 718-613-4290.