Should advance directives be stored online on Google Health?

It was recently announced that Google Health, a popular personal health record, will allow patients to store their advance directives.

Emergency physician Graham Walker calls the initiative an “epic fail,” and illustrates some real-life problems of the idea.

While it is generally thought that making one’s health information available electronically to medical personnel is a reasonable idea, doing so with advance directives may not be. Especially in the emergency department where patients often are unable to give a cogent history.

Dr. Walker notes that, “Our critically ill patients are usually so critically ill they’re not able to be speak, or they’re altered, or too somnolent to be thinking correctly, let alone be able to type and remember their login to Google Health.”

Even if the doctor was Internet-savvy and able to look up a patient’s medical information electronically, “Is the physician going to spend their precious time trying to login to a website to find out if the patient is DNR/DNI?”

It’s unlikely.

So, although Google’s attention to advance directives is well-placed, their lack of real-world experience in such matters hinders the useful implementation of such an idea.

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