The Importance of Advance Care Planning: A Path to Better Health Outcomes and Cost Savings

May 24, 2024
3 min
Dr. Michael Madison, CEO

In last week’s blog, we reviewed Dr. Delia Chiaramonte’s book, Coping Courageously. This week, Dr. Chiaramonte was quoted in a Hospice News article discussing the importance of completing ACP. In a world where medical advancements continuously push the boundaries of healthcare, one critical aspect often remains overlooked—advance care planning (ACP). According to a JAMA study, only 10.9% of Medicare decedents who died between 2017 and 2018 had an ACP discussion. Understanding and embracing advance care planning can lead to better health outcomes, financial savings, and emotional peace for everyone involved.

“The challenges in lagging advance care planning access could leave many patients and their caregivers with a range of unmet emotional, physical and psychosocial needs”, according to Dr. Delia Chiaramonte, integrative palliative physician, founder and CEO of The Integrative Palliative Institute. “That’s a horrific situation for family members and causes them extraordinary emotional suffering to have to make a decision without that guidance or idea of what their loved one would want,” Chiaramonte told Hospice News. “Making these decisions in concert with the person takes away so much of that burden and angst. It helps a person die with dignity, maintain control and can significantly reduce people’s physical, emotional and spiritual suffering.” Thanacare, our clinician-led advance care planning solution, was created to ensure that an individual’s preferences can be captured and honored when it matters most, both by that individual’s healthcare team and their loved ones. Thanacare's HIPAA-compliant platform enables healthcare professionals to engage their patients remotely and in-person to capture, certify, and uphold their healthcare directives and wishes.

Caregiving is an emotionally and physically demanding role. When a loved one's wishes are clearly outlined, caregivers experience less stress and uncertainty. Knowing exactly what their loved ones desire helps caregivers make decisions confidently, fostering a sense of peace and reducing anxiety. Without ACP, caregivers may face the overwhelming responsibility of making critical medical decisions without clear guidance. This can lead to guilt, family conflicts, and emotional distress. Advance care planning alleviates these pressures, ensuring that caregivers are empowered to honor their loved ones' preferences, thereby improving their well-being.

Healthcare costs are a significant concern for many families, especially during serious illnesses or at the end of life. The same JAMA article found that ACP visits were associated with “significantly less’ intensive care use at end of life. Clear directives often result in fewer unnecessary treatments and hospitalizations, which can be both emotionally taxing and financially draining. For instance, when a patient's wishes regarding resuscitation or life-sustaining treatments are known and respected, it can prevent expensive and often unwanted medical interventions. This not only conserves resources but also aligns care with the patient’s values and preferences. Patients receive treatments that are consistent with their wishes, leading to higher satisfaction and better overall outcomes. This patient-centered approach fosters a more humane and respectful healthcare experience. Additionally, reducing hospital stays and intensive care interventions can alleviate the financial burden on families and the healthcare system. 

Despite its benefits, many people are hesitant to engage in advance care planning. Common barriers include discomfort discussing end-of-life issues, lack of awareness, and misconceptions about the process. Healthcare providers play a pivotal role in initiating these conversations and educating patients and families about the importance of ACP.

Community outreach, public awareness campaigns, and integrating ACP discussions into routine healthcare visits can also help normalize and encourage this essential planning. By making ACP a standard part of healthcare, we can ensure that more individuals and families experience the benefits of clear, documented healthcare preferences. By prioritizing advance care planning, we can create a more compassionate, efficient, and patient-centered healthcare system.

If you are interested in starting a conversation about what matters most when it comes to your care wishes, schedule with Thanacare today.