If you’ve got a health emergency who should medical or other health-care personnel notify? Sound simple? Not so fast. A recent study showed that when patients in an emergency room were asked for their emergency contact information they thought it referred to the person they wanted to make medical decisions for them – the person listed in a legal document known as an advanced healthcare directive, or living will.
The answer to the question about emergency contact information refers to a spouse, member of your family, friend, or neighbor who can help you out if you need it. But the person to whom you entrust medical decisions if you cannot make them on your own is a very different thing.
According to MedicineNet, the study by Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital showed that doctors and other healthcare providers and patients were not using the same terminology.
“The fact that doctors routinely ask their patients for emergency contact information without explaining what responsibilities this person has could help explain this common misconception. The study authors suggested that doctors could inadvertently be strengthening the idea that emergency contacts have more importance than the medical decision maker listed in an advance directive.”
The study not only shows the importance of explaining the nature of and need for an advanced healthcare directive, but also the need for more precised terms and better communication between doctors and their patients.