PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
April 15, 2013

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

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

Christie Administration Recognizes National Healthcare Decisions Day April 16

State's POLST Program Helps Individuals Express Healthcare Goals

As the nation observes National Healthcare Decisions Day on April 16, New Jersey Health Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd reminds New Jerseyans that the state's POLST form provides a new opportunity for them to make sure their healthcare preferences are honored.

POLST - Practitioner Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment - is a statewide program to empower individuals to make decisions regarding their medical care at the end of life. Governor Chris Christie signed New Jersey's POLST law in December 2011, and the state Department of Health officially unveiled the new form in February.

"National Healthcare Decision Day aims to empower individuals to define their own healthcare preferences and encourage families to have these important conversations," said Commissioner O'Dowd. "In New Jersey, we're proud to offer our residents another opportunity, through our POLST initiative, to ensure that their healthcare wishes will be honored in all healthcare settings and by all healthcare professionals."

The POLST form is designed to be completed jointly by an individual and a physician or advance practice nurse, detailing the individual's goals of care and medical preferences. Unlike other documents like an Advance Directive, a completed POLST form is an actual medical order that becomes a permanent part of the individual's medical record and is valid in all healthcare settings. The POLST form is intended for patients with a life-limiting illness. This form allows them to state detailed preferences on specific goals and medical interventions.

The Department designated the New Jersey Hospital Association's Institute for Quality and Patient Safety - a federally designated "patient safety organization" - to create New Jersey's form and introduce it to healthcare providers. A POLST Steering Committee representing hospitals, physicians, advance practice nurses, post-acute providers, EMS, legal experts and ethicists designed the form and guidance for the healthcare community in implementing the program. The NJHA Quality Institute has developed a toolkit and is providing ongoing Webinars and other education to healthcare professionals.

"POLST epitomizes the idea of ‘patient-centered' care," said Betsy Ryan, president and CEO of the New Jersey Hospital Association. "We know that healthcare is complex and it can be confusing and intimidating for individuals facing a serious illness. POLST allows the patient and the practitioner to be partners in achieving the individual's goals of care and ensuring that the final months and weeks of life are as the individual wanted."

The POLST form and additional resources are available from the Department at http://www.state.nj.us/health/advancedirective/polst.shtml or NJHA at www.njha.com/POLST. Visit www.nhdd.org for more information on National Healthcare Decisions Day.