A large majority of the doctors (roughly 75 percent) believe it’s their responsibility to initiate the end-of-life conversations, however, less than one-third have received training on how to do so effectively with their patients and patients’ family members. This is important for several reasons. At the end of life we waste a great deal of resources by not educating and talking about the end of life. Annually we waste $210 billion on unwanted, unnecessary and non-beneficial healthcare services.
80 percent of people believe it’s important to create advance directives, but less than 25% have actually done so, and only 7% with their doctor’s help. Seventy-five percent of the doctors say the conversations, which are often held in a hospital or other healthcare facility, are initiated because Medicare reimburses for advanced-care planning. However, only approximately 14 percent of the doctors report having to bill Medicare-eligible patients for having the conversations. Despite the fact that end-of-life talks are covered by insurance for elderly patients, which removes financial hurdles, doctors still find it difficult to overcome the discomfort of talking about death. More than that, most electronic paperwork systems are so antiquated, doctors report there’s no place to include their patients’ end-of-life preferences in their file.
End-of-life conversations not only help ensure a patient the specific type of treatment they want once they may no longer be able to articulate their desires, but they also save costs associated with treating someone medically who doesn’t want to prolong life. Without “the talk,” doctors and possibly even family members would be left in the dark on how their loved one wishes to proceed when they are critically ill and dying.
Adapted from Medical Daily 2016