A new organization, Honoring Choices Tennessee, has been formed to increase the number of Tennesseans who have an advance directive for healthcare. An advance directive for healthcare is a document that would tell family and care providers a patient’s preferences for care should they ever be in a position where they could not make decisions and communicate them for themselves.
The new Tennessee nonprofit organization has launched a website, www.advancedirectivesTN.org, and implemented a “pilot” program in Northeast Tennessee to educate employees of Mountain States Health Alliance, one of the state’s largest healthcare systems, about the benefits of executing an advance directive.
“We are excited to create this vehicle that will help all Tennesseans, young and old, understand this very important document and to encourage them to consider how it can bring their families closer, while helping improve patient-centered care in our state,” Melissa Cooper, Board Chair of Honoring Choices Tennessee and Mountain States Health Alliance CEO of Home Health and Hospice.
Research conducted by the group last year found that fewer than one-third of adult Tennesseans have executed such a document.
Advance health care planning is becoming more important because of trends that allow Americans to live longer, but can sometimes have an adverse impact on quality of life. “The Honoring Choices Tennessee initiative can be a real blessing, a critical opportunity to empower the difficult but important conversations that can improve our approach to advanced care and end of life planning,” said Tennessee Commissioner of Health John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH, FACOEM.
“Receiving care that honors individual values and having the opportunity to talk and make informed decisions about end of life care depends so much on the recording and sharing of these documents with family and others given access, like health providers; this is the way Honoring Choices can make some of our last and most important wishes come true,” Dr. Dreyzehner noted.
Organizing members of Honoring Choices Tennessee are Tennessee Hospital Association, Tennessee Nurses Association, Tennessee Medical Association, Tennessee Health Care Association, Tennessee Hospice Organization, Tennessee End of Life Partnership, Tennessee Department of Health, Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disabilities, Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Healthy Shelby, Hospice of Chattanooga, Mountain States Health Alliance, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, QSource and AARP Tennessee.
According to Craig A. Becker, president and CEO of the Tennessee Hospital Association, the goal of the initiative is two-fold. “The coalition was created about 18 months ago to encourage Tennesseans to start the conversation right now about advance care planning with their healthcare providers, family members and loved ones, and complete an advance directive.”
The group says its initial plans call for educating all health care workers in the state about the benefits of advance directives so those individuals can educate patients and their families about this important step.
Honoring Choices Tennessee is affiliated with the Honoring Choices National Network that has affiliates in a dozen other states, including Alaska, California, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. The name Honoring Choices Tennessee is used under license from Twin Cities Medical Society Foundation, which originated the national movement under the name Honoring Choices Minnesota.
The formation of Honoring Choices Tennessee and launch of the AdvanceDirectiveTN initiative coincides with National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD), an annual event designed to inspire, educate and empower the public and providers about the importance of advance health care planning. NHDD is an initiative of The Conversation Project to encourage patients to express their wishes regarding health care and for providers and facilities to respect those wishes, whatever they may be. The theme for 2017 is “It Always Seems Too Early, Until It’s Too Late.”