American Bar Association launches app for advanced care directives

By Jonah Comstock
10:23 am
My Health Care Wishes The My Health Care Wishes Pro app for Android

A new healthcare app this month was released by an unlikely source -- the American Bar Association. As the New York Times' "The New Old Age" blog picked up, the ABA offered up a freemium app for iOS and Android devices to help people make their advanced directives available easily to doctors and loved ones in emergency situations.

The app, called My Health Care Wishes, addresses a common problem with advanced directives like living wills: people create the documents and put them somewhere safe, but not necessarily accessible or known to a large number of people. With the app, older people can store their advanced directives as a secure PDF stored in their own smartphone -- or, they can have their child, spouse or healthcare proxy store the information on their phone instead.

"Let’s say your Mom lives in San Francisco and has a health care directive with end-of-life decisions," the ABA writes on their website. "You’re her primary proxy and live in Washington DC. She’s on vacation in Boston and rushed to the ER at Mass General Hospital. A My Health Care Wishes wallet card is found stating her proxy has her advance care plan on his iPhone -- that’s you! You’re coaching soccer but with one click you are able to email the documents needed to speak with staff to make key decisions. Crucial moments are saved and you’re there in a way never possible before in a medical crisis." 

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The app works with several different advanced directive documents which doctors often need at the point of care, but can't always get their hands on: living wills, health care power of attorney documents, 'Do Not Resuscitate' orders, and POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) documents. The app includes a printable wallet card to inform others in an emergency about where the information can be accessed.

With the free version, users can import or upload advanced care documents from their computer. They can then send the documents via text or email to friends, family, or caregivers. The user can also opt-in to email reminders to review and update their end of life documents every few years. With the $3.99 version, a single app can store more than one profile so a single caregiver can access information about both parents, for instance, as well as track the relationships between different profiles. The Pro version also integrates with DropBox and can be used to store additional documents.

"An important document like this doesn’t belong tucked away in a safety deposit box or in a file cabinet somewhere," the site says. "Import and store it on your smartphone so that it’s there for medical decision-making anytime, anywhere."