OHSU

OHSU Launches 24-Hour POLST Hotline in Clackamas County

05/11/09  Portland, Ore.

Residents with POLST forms in Clackamas County are invited to take part in first phase of the program

At a Glance

The POLST program seeks to ensure that a patient's end-of-life wishes are followed. It does this in the form of a double-sided medical order form filled out jointly by a patient and their physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant. The form explains the types of treatments patients want should they become incapacitated. The form helps to ensure that in an emergency situation, medical personnel can obtain quick and accurate information about a patient's wishes for end-of-life care.

Oregon health professionals are hoping to establish a statewide electronic registry for the POLST program.

In preparation for a possible statewide program, an OHSU-coordinated task force is providing Clackamas County residents access to the registry on May 26.

Clackamas County residents and their health care professionals can take part in phase one of the registry by faxing their completed POLST forms to 503-418-2161.

PORTLAND, Ore – Oregon Health & Science University and the Oregon POLST Task Force are launching the first phase of a 24-hour electronic registry/hotline for Oregon's Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) program in Clackamas County later this month. The purpose of the POLST program and hotline are to ensure that in all cases - especially an emergency situation - medical personnel can obtain quick and accurate information about a patient's health care wishes.

POLST is a medical order form completed by a patient and their physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant. The form is bright pink and provides specific medical instructions to health care professionals, at a time when the patient is incapacitated. It is specifically created for patients with advanced illness or frailty. The form is the first document any provider sees when accessing a patient's medical record. Program participants who remain at home are directed to place the form on their refrigerator.

"Oregon's pioneering POLST program has had an outstanding level of success in ensuring patients' end-of-life wishes are being met. However, to make the program even more successful and far reaching, we have proposed a statewide registry and 24-hour hotline for emergency medical personnel," explained Susan Tolle, M.D., director of the OHSU Center for Ethics in Health Care. "This 24-hour service will make it possible for a person's POLST form to be located and followed even when a patient is away from home or if a copy of the form cannot be located in their home."

Here is how the system will work: When emergency medical personnel are called to take care of an incapacitated person in the advanced stages of illness, they will call the POLST hotline based at OHSU. These first responders will inquire about the existence of a POLST form and ask questions to ensure that the person and the form are an exact match. This information will then be used to help guide the care of the patient.

"The registry will provide the needed back up to the paper form and securely protect POLST orders similar to other health information," according to Terri Schmidt M.D., a professor of emergency medicine, OHSU School of Medicine, and the director of the project.

The POLST program was conceived in 1991 by a group of Oregon health care professionals. They identified the need for a system to ensure that patients with advanced illness and frailty are able to have medical orders that direct their health care. The goal is to be sure that no matter where patients receive care, their treatment wishes will be respected. The result of these discussions was the development of the POLST program.

At this point, 30 other states - including California, Idaho and Washington - have followed Oregon's lead and adopted POLST programs.

To learn more about the POLST program and the new registry visit www.polst.org.

About OHSU
Oregon Health & Science University is the state's only health and research university, and Oregon's only academic health center. OHSU is Portland's largest employer and the fourth largest in Oregon (excluding government). OHSU's size contributes to its ability to provide many services and community support activities not found anywhere else in the state. It serves patients from every corner of the state, and is a conduit for learning for more than 3,400 students and trainees. OHSU is the source of more than 200 community outreach programs that bring health and education services to every county in the state.

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A patient and provider fill out a POLST form
A patient and provider fill out a POLST form.