Advance Directives Registries: How to Evaluate Them

I shared in my last post that clients’ healthcare directives are useless if they cannot be produced at the hospital when they are needed. To close this gap between the legal and the medical worlds, registries for advance directives have been created thatprovide rapid access to these important documents by storing them electronically.

How do such registries work? Typically, the registry scans and stores a copy of the individual’s advance directives electronically, and the individual registrant receives a wallet card with a unique identification number. Hospitals use this card to obtain the person’s directives, usually by calling a toll-free number and receiving the documents via fax, or by going to the registry’s website and printing the documents.

So, all well and good: The question is, how do you go about choosing the right registry for your clients? Your options include a variety of private registries, as well as a state-operated public registry in some states. Here are a few of the factors you might consider in selecting a registry for your clients:

  • Does the registry provide live support 24/7/365, so hospital staff can talk to a human being at any time, if necessary?
  • Can the hospital receive directives both via web and via fax? Internet-only services pose access problems at some hospitals, where some staff are not granted web access.
  • If the client is traveling out-of-state or internationally, will the service work immediately in all cases?
  • How do hospital emergency personnel know that a client is registered? Does the registry provide a wallet card, wallet stickers, or any other means of alerting hospital staff to the patient’s registration?
  • How easy is it for your firm to register your clients? Is the client registration form integrated into your firm’s document creation software to avoid duplicate data entry?
  • Does the registry review the directives for common clerical errors:  missing pages, documents assigned to the incorrect client, etc?
  • What firm branding opportunities and other marketing support does the registry offer?
  • Does the registry have a proven record of reliability and stability? How long has it been operating? How many individuals has it registered? Many registries have come and gone in the last 15 years.

By registering your clients in a proven, effective emergency access service, you can show your clients that you are committed to making each document you draft work for them when it is needed. Clients, in turn, will be grateful to you for the peace of mind and protection that registration ensures, whether or not they ever use it at the hospital.