Virginia Offers Residents Free Advance Directive Registry

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The Commonwealth of Virginia has launched a statewide Advance Health Care Directive Registry (AHCDR), which securely stores documents that detail healthcare wishes when a patient is unable to speak for themselves. These documents include medical power of attorney and do-not-resuscitate orders.

An advance directive lets family members and physicians know the extent and types of medical care that patients want and do not want if they are unable to express it, such as breathing machines and feeding tube.

Without advanced planning, healthcare decisions are often left to family members when loved ones become incapacitated and unable to speak for themselves, according to senior state health officials. The registry relieves them of that burden and assures that family and healthcare providers know the patient’s wishes and who is to make medical decisions for them by making the documents easily accessible.

The registry will be interoperable with the statewide health information exchange (HIE), a secure and confidential system through which a patient’s records will be accessible to other providers throughout the nation if a patient chooses to participate.

As the statewide HIE becomes operational, the registry will be a “value-added” service provided by the HIE.
The registry is a public-private partnership between the Virginia Department of Health, Unival Inc., which offers integrated healthcare tools, and Microsoft Corp.’s HealthVault personal health record, said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Dr. William Hazel, Jr.

“Virginia is unique among states that offer this kind of service in that there is no cost to taxpayers or registry users,” he said in a Dec. 7 announcement.

Other states, such as Vermont, Arizona and Nevada, also offer Web-based advance directive registries.

Using the registry is easy and registration is simple. Residents enter basic information, create an account and select a personal identification number (PIN) and password. Each Virginian who signs up for the registry receives an identification card containing their personal registry information so health care providers can access their information if necessary. They may also share their PIN with friends, family and health care providers, allowing them access to their information.

Advance directive forms and frequently asked questions are available at the site. Virginia residents can also express their wishes regarding organ donation through the registry.