Google Health and National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s Caring Connections have partnered to allow patients to store and access their advance directives on line.  Advance directives are essentially "directions" that a person gives to their medical professionals about what interventions they wish to have provided or withheld under specific circumstances — especially in emergencies and at "end-of-life" moments — when such person can not express those wishes himself or herself.  Advance directives laws vary from state-to-state, but typically require such directives to be in writing, signed and to have a personal representative listed.

GoogleHealth and Caring Connections will offer a "living will" feature that allows users to download a free state-specific advance directive and store completed and signed scanned documents securely on line in their GoogleHealth account.  By "storing" such advanced directives in GoogleHealth’s centralized repository, the hope is to offer providers with a better method to insure that a patient’s true wishes with regard to health care interventions are honored.  But, will it?

What had me wondering is how exactly will the provider access the advanced directive on Google Health without the individual (who presumably has lost his or her ability to communicate) providing his or her password?   I suppose that in instances where a personal representative has been appointed, the individual could make sure to provide such password to his/her personal representative — but watch out, because if the personal representative changes, then the password may need to change too.  Another option may be for individuals to pre-authorize their entrusted health care provider with access to their personal Google Health account.  Yet, this also has problems where one does not necessarily know which emergency room provider might end up providing them with care. 

Nevertheless, even with its limitations, Google Health’s new advanced directive feature will likely be beneficial in many circumstances.  To learn more about GoogleHealth and Caring Connection’s new advance directive feature, click here.