PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
February 02, 2012

Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

Department of Health and Senior Services and University Medical Center at Princeton Convene End-of-Life Roundtable Announces New Jersey Hospital Association to Develop New Standardized POLST Form

(Princeton) On Friday, February 3, New Jersey Health and Senior Services Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd will join with University Medical Center at Princeton (UMCP), the acute care hospital of Princeton HealthCare System (PHCS), to convene a roundtable discussion about end-of-life care and the Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) law recently signed by Governor Christie. She will be joined by physicians, nursing home industry leaders, hospital association representatives and a family member of a nursing home resident.  The roundtable will be held in Ground Floor Conference Room A at University Medical Center at Princeton at 11am.

"End-of-life care raises many difficult and emotional issues for patients and their families and is often complicated by inadequate planning," said Commissioner O'Dowd.  "The POLST form can improve end-of-life care by clearly outlining an individual's decisions on what type of medical care they desire, making it easier for health care providers to honor a patient's wishes."

The standardized POLST form, which is signed by a patient's attending physician or advanced practice nurse, provides orders for health care personnel to follow for a range of life-sustaining treatments such as feeding tubes, ventilators and medication. The POLST form is designed to outline the wishes of those who have a terminal illness or a compromised medical condition.

This new law directed the Commissioner to designate a Patient Safety Organization to develop a standardized POLST form for which the New Jersey Hospital Association (NJHA) Institute for Quality and Patient Safety was selected.  The NJHA will prescribe this form, as well as, promote awareness among health care professionals and the public about the option to complete a POLST form.  Additionally, NJHA will provide ongoing training of health care professionals and emergency care providers about the use of the POLST form.

"POLST empowers patients to discuss their end-of-life wishes with their physicians - and then ensures that those wishes are documented in a standardized form recognized across the healthcare spectrum," said Betsy Ryan, NJHA President and CEO. "As longtime supporters of POLST, we'll continue our intensive work with hospitals, physicians, post-acute providers and others to improve end-of-life care and to honor all patients' care goals in their final days."

Dr. David Barile, director of the Acute Care for the Elderly (ACE) unit and Palliative Care Program at UMCP, and executive director and chief medical officer of New Jersey Goals of Care will open the event with a presentation outlining a Partnerships for PIECE (Patient-Centered, Integrated Elder Care and Empowerment) initiative to improve older adults' transition from the hospital to the community.  Princeton HealthCare System is piloting a version of a POLST form at University Medical Center at Princeton and nine skilled nursing facilities in the region as part of a two-year Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant initiative.

At the roundtable, the need to improve care for seriously ill patients and ways to promote conversations about end-of-life will be discussed. The roundtable will also focus on bringing greater attention to the enactment of POLST legislation in New Jersey and how it will benefit those who have a terminal illness or a compromised medical condition.

The Department of Health and Senior Services website provides forms, tools and guidance to help residents plan end-of-life decisions. The Department's online resources, available at www.nj.gov/health/advancedirective, include more information on the POLST legislation, advance directive forms, educational materials, toolkits for completing an advance directive and links to web sites with additional information on hospice and palliative care.