Saint Luke’s Hospital Koontz Center for Advanced Breast Cancer is launching an online platform intended to engage patients with advance care planning. The program is called Advance Care Appointment Companion, an intuitive digital advocate designed for patients to reflect on, create and communicate their advance care plan with their care team and loved ones.
Advance care planning determines a patient’s preferences in the type of health care they receive in the event they are unable to speak for themselves. Planning before the need arises prevents a patient’s family members from having to make stressful decisions about their medical care during a moment of crisis. Through a set of guided experiences, patients are able to share their end of life wishes with their care teams earlier in their diagnosis, enabling providers to more easily deliver effective and efficient care.
“Advance care planning should not be a one-time discussion with family members or with your care team,” said Kadie Harry, PhD, psychologist and principal investigator of this study. “Research has demonstrated that both patients and providers desire to discuss advanced care planning, and these discussions lead to better health outcomes and improve quality of life. Unfortunately, these conversations oftentimes do not take place, or they’re communicated inadequately. It’s a tough topic to discuss. Advance Care Appointment Companion has the potential to bridge this large gap.”
Development of Advance Care Appointment Companion was initiated by Dr. Harry and Saint Luke’s Cancer Institute Medical Director Timothy Pluard, MD. They recognized that few patients had completed advanced care documents, such as a Durable Power of Attorney or an Advance Health Care Directive, and many were hesitant to talk about it with their provider. Dr. Pluard collaborated with Patient Discovery to create a unique tool to solve this systemic problem. The goal is to increase the number of patients who have these documents in their medical charts where the doctor and, if needed, family members can access them. A secondary aim is to increase patient comfort in discussing their advance care planning with their care team and loved ones.
“These conversations can be very difficult,” said Dr. Pluard. “Patients may have a wide–range of emotions and varying comfort levels in how prepared they are to have these conversations or who they want present when those conversations take place. This tool allows the care team to understand the patient’s wishes and concerns in advance and be better equipped to manage the conversation and meet the patient where they are in the process.”
Patients and loved ones can access the platform on a mobile device or computer. They will be guided through a set of activities which adapts to their advance care planning preferences and comfort levels to help reflect on and express their end-of-life wishes. These actionable insights will be provided to their Saint Luke’s care team, who will incorporate them into their ongoing treatment plan and help guide them through completing the advance care planning documentation.
“We are both humbled and excited to collaborate with Dr. Pluard and Dr. Harry on solving this important problem for patients, their loved ones and for the care teams at Saint Luke’s,” said Jason Shore, Chief Executive of Patient Discovery. “Our mission is to transform the way all patients are understood, supported and treated. The Advance Care Appointment Companion brings to the forefront real-world patient preferences which can then be more easily honored within each patient’s end of life plans.”
The Koontz Center is a national leader in delivering comprehensive, interdisciplinary care focused exclusively on patients with Stage 4 breast cancer. The unique care model includes oncology, psychology, nutrition, physical therapy, social work, and a spiritual practitioner. The center is also a leader in MBC research.
Drs. Pluard and Harry plan to share preliminary results of Advance Care Appointment Companion at the 2021 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in December.
Learn more about Saint Luke’s Hospital Koontz Center for Advanced Breast Cancer – the region’s only center dedicated to metastatic breast cancer.