An advance directive gives instructions on the kind of medical care you would like to receive should you become unable to express your wishes yourself, and it often designates someone to make medical decisions for you. But an important document like this won’t be of much use in an emergency if it’s tucked away in a safe deposit box or in a file cabinet somewhere.
That’s why the American Bar Association’s Commission on Law and Aging has come up with the app My Health Care Wishes, which allows you to import and store your advance directive, along with other critical information, on your smartphone so that it’s there for medical decision-making anytime, anywhere. The ABA notes that your information is protected because the data resides only on your smartphone, not on any server or cloud service.
There are two versions of the app: the lite version is free (coming soon) and the pro version costs $3.99. The ABA’s website explains and compares the features of the two versions.
Don’t have a smartphone, you say? Well, it’s a good bet that someone close to you does, and having your information on that person’s phone could be a life saver. Here’s an example: Let’s say you live in San Francisco and your son, who holds your health care power of attorney, lives in Washington, D.C. While on vacation in Boston you are suddenly rushed to the ER at Mass General Hospital. A My Health Care Wishes wallet card is found stating that your son has your advance care plan on his iPhone. Your son is coaching soccer in D.C. but with one click he is able to email the documents needed to speak with hospital staff to make key decisions. Crucial moments are saved and your son is there in a way never possible before in a medical crisis.
An article about My Health Care Wishes in the New York Times points out that advance directives can be digitally stored in other ways. For example, DocuBank makes health care and legal documents available 24/7 with a phone call. MyDirectives is a free web-based system. About a dozen states have established online registries and there have been attempts to create a national registry. And the Times notes that you can of course also store an email-able document on any phone or tablet, without an app, or file one in a cloud-based storage system.
The most important first step is to have an advance directive — most Americans don’t. But once you have one, make sure it’s there when you need it most.
For more on health care decision making, click here.