A Simple Step: A Call for Long-Term Healthcare Planning

Amidst persistent capacity constraints within Massachusetts healthcare facilities, a coalition of leading organizations has renewed its call for proactive care planning by urging community members to take the simple step of designating a healthcare agent and completing a health care proxy.

The coalition is calling on every patient to designate a healthcare agent, or the person trusted to make care decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make them for yourself. The importance of proactive decision-making became especially evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, when thousands of patients across the nation were incapacitated and in need of representation regarding their care.

Capacity constraints have been a relentless challenge for a the commonwealth’s healthcare system in recent years. Completing a healthcare proxy is a simple step that adults over age 18 can take to ensure that they have a trusted representative making decisions on their behalf should they become incapacitated.

The coalition is highlighting three key steps for community members:

  1. Choose someone you trust to be your designated healthcare agent and have a simple conversation about what’s important to you.
  2. Complete a health care proxy form – you can do it all yourself! (This form from Honoring Choices Massachusetts is available in 15 languages.) You can also complete a form that comes directly from your healthcare provider.
  3. Have a simple conversation with your care team about the care that’s right for you.

Completion of a health care proxy, the simple form patients can use to assign their agent, can also help alleviate some of the intense pressures healthcare organizations are now experiencing. Proxies empower caregivers to work directly with trusted loved ones and efficiently transition them to other care settings from the moment their hospital stay is winding down. Hospital case managers report that when patients lack a healthcare agent, it prevents them from being discharged and ties up acute-level beds for other patients in need. Patients do not get the level of care they need, while hospital wait times and care access for other individuals suffer.

Read more about the effort, the partner toolkit, and patient resources here.