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End of Life Coalition Convenes Amid Pandemic

The Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) is the statewide coordinator for PA Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST), an important component and communication tool to assure that a person's goals of life and goals of care are respected during critical illnesses in their lives and at end of life. A long-time issue on JHF's Closure agenda, the discussion of end of life communication has now become spotlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On June 24th, JHF convened over 60 end of life experts and POLST champions for the Coalition for Quality at End of Life (CQEL). The meeting yielded its highest attendance in over 5 years and has expanded its members by increasing outreach to additional POLST supporters and encouraging enhanced participation from other regions. New partners include University of Pennsylvania, the Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education, WellSpan Health, POLST coalitions in the counties of Adams, Lebanon and York, and others. Chaired by Robert Arnold, MD, chief of palliative care and medical ethics at the University of Pittsburgh and medical director of the UPMC Palliative and Supportive Institute, the meeting served as an annual update for members regarding statewide and national POLST efforts.

POLST form

Amy Vandenbroucke, JD, executive director of National POLST, discussed changes related to whom POLST is intended and described the need for a standardized, national POLST form. POLST utilization and EMS best practices were discussed by PA State EMS Medical Director Dr. Doug Kupas, and Nancy Zionts, MBA, COO & chief program officer of JHF, facilitated discussion about how organizations have adapted advance care planning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Judith Black, MD, JHF medical advisor, provided a summary of 2019 POLST accomplishments in Pennsylvania, which included the receipt of funding from Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield and UPMC Charitable Giving. Additionally, Alexander Nesbitt, MD, medical director of UPMC Susquehanna Supportive and Palliative Care, discussed current state legislation for POLST use and defined the differences between Pennsylvania Senate Bill, SB 142 and House Bill, HB 987. Pennsylvania State Senator Gene Yaw and Pennsylvania State Representative Paul Schemel were in attendance to comment on the legislation. Further discussions with legislators and POLST stakeholders are being planned and JHF is hopeful that this upcoming legislative session will bring a long-awaiting resolution to POLST in Pennsylvania.  

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