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End-of-Life Communication and Care: A Struggle Most Physicians Encounter

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Just as it is difficult for many of us to talk about our ultimate death, it is also difficult for doctors to talk about this eventuality with their patients. Most doctors did not specialize in palliative or end-of-life care, yet they are often called upon to have these tough discussions with patients.

You can make it far easier for your doctor, and for your family, by making your wishes known and documenting your choices in a properly drafted Advance Medical Directive, along with naming the people you want making decisions for you if you cannot. And, by ensuring you have updated your plan to include HIPAA releases to ensure your loved ones can access your medical records, if necessary.

Earlier this year Medicare began reimbursing doctors who engage in conversations with their patients about end-of-life care and choices. It’s a significant improvement in patient care while providing a financial incentive for doctors to have these conversations. Thirty minutes is reimbursable at an $80 rate, and an additional $75 may be billed for a second 30-minutes.

Many, however, doubt that doctors are equipped to handle this responsibility. In fact, the Chief Academic Officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges doesn’t believe the “medical profession is totally up to speed and ready to have these conversations.”

Dr. Susan Block of the Serious Illness Care Program at Ariadne Labs agrees, explaining that “[t]his conversation is at the intersection of two topics that medical schools have by and large avoided—end-of-life care and communication.”

Dr. Block is also concerned that not handling these types of conversations well may be worse than not having them at all. She suggests the use of an Ariadne Lab publication designed to help doctors know the right issues to raise with patients. You can access the Serious Illness Conversation Guide Conversation Guide online if you would like to be more informed about how to talk these issues through with members of your own family.

It is always hard to acknowledge our mortality but doing so can bring significant peace of mind. We are here to help, and make it easy for you to choose to do the right thing by the people you love, and by your doctors as well.

This article is a service of Kundani & Chang LLP. We are an award-winning law firm that specializes in business and estate planning for clients like you. The goal for every family is to stay educated on all topics like this, avoid probate, avoid estate taxes, and build a legacy for you and your loved ones. What sets our firm apart is that we build lasting, lifelong relationships with our clients. They rely on us to keep them updated, provide sound legal counsel, and be there for them immediately if any problems should ever arise. The best part is we don’t charge hourly fees to our families, so you never have to worry about speaking to us. If you’re ready to keep your family out of Court, contact us today to schedule an initial consultation or visit our website at www.kckwlaw.com

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