La Crosse has long had advance care planning to ensure dying patients get what they want when they cannot speak for themselves. A similar effort will be tried next year in Madison, Milwaukee and Fort Atkinson.
The Wisconsin Medical Society is spearheading an advance care-planning project called Honoring Choices. Dr. Tim Bartholow says it is designed to give patients the care they want. Doctors and families will have a way of knowing what a patient wants when that person reaches the point they can no longer communicate. Bartholow says, “Family members can be in disagreement. Families will be torn by these events where it's unclear [what the patient wants]. Having that conversation sometime before, we really need that information"
Advance planning has been shown in La Crosse to alleviate family grief, according to John Maycroft. Maycroft is an analyst with the Medical Society. He has been coordinating the new pilot project. “[In La Crosse's end of life planning] they’ve measured depression rates six months after a loved one’s death and seen much better results in that regard."
Once providers are trained how to initiate advance planning, community outreach will start. That outreach will be based on what they have done in Minnesota using community, religious and senior leaders.
Sandra Shillinger is a nurse involved in Minnesota's program. She says advance care planning can prevent unwanted, and sometimes unhelpful, expensive procedures. “The cost end will be evident at the back end, that we're reducing duplicative care, care that patients didn't want in the first place."
The advance care planning pilots begin next March at nine health systems in Fort Atkinson, Madison and Milwaukee.