Advance Care Planning

7 Things to Know About Advance Directives for Your Patients

April 5, 2021

The most effective strategy for identifying what your patients with advanced illness want near the end of life is to have goals-of-care conversations early, regularly, and matter-of-factly.

VITAS can help. So can these seven key points about advance directives, the written documents that outline a person's healthcare preferences:

  1. Everyone over 18 should have advance directives. The most common types of advance directives include a living will, durable/medical power of attorney for healthcare decisions, Five Wishes document, and Physician/Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment document. Download advance directives and instructions for your state >
  2. Advance directives give patients control of their medical care if they can’t communicate or speak on their own.
  3. Advance directives are billable. Medicare reimburses up to $86 to discuss end-of-life care with patients.
  4. The conversation is easier when the patient is healthy and alert. Ideally, families should be involved in the conversation to explore values, preferences and goals for care.
  5. Advance directives can be modified over time.
  6. Your patients are waiting for you to start the conversation. Ninety-two percent of people surveyed indicated they would be at least somewhat comfortable talking with a doctor or health care provider about their end-of-life medical wishes, including two-thirds (66%) who say they’d be very comfortable.1
  7. People who document their healthcare preferences in an advance directive are more likely to get the care they prefer at the end of life.2

Download a PDF of these tips >

Updated from an earlier version published on April 3, 2017.

1Hamel, L. (2017). Views and experiences with end-of-life medical care in the US. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Retrieved from: https://canceradvocacy.org/wp-content/uploads/Report-Views-and-Experiences-with-End-of-Life-Medical-Care-in-the-US.pdf

2National Institute on Aging. (2018). Advance Care Planning: Healthcare Directives. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/advance-care-planning-health-care-directives