A Physician Order for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form is an advance care plan that travels with a patient and addresses care that you would want today.
The Difference Between an Advance Care Directive and a POLST
A POLST form is…
- For anyone with a serious illness.
- For someone with a life expectancy of a year or less.
- A way to communicate your treatment wishes based on your current condition.
- Completed with a physician.
- Able to be completed by a surrogate or legal representative.
- A medical order that travels with you.
When you complete a POLST form with your physician, he/she discusses continued health care options with the patient and their family in the context of:
- Prognosis (the likely course of the illness)
- Available treatment options
- Burdens and benefits of available options
- Patient goals and values
An Advance Directive is…
- For anyone over 18.
- A way to address your future care, not your current care.
- Completed by the patient, and a physician is not required.
- Unable to be completed by a healthcare surrogate or legal representative.
- Not immediately translated into a medical order.
An advance directive is an appropriate document for many individuals. It does have limitations, however. It may not be available when needed in a health care setting, and may not be specific enough.
POLST is for individuals with a serious illness, advanced frailty or life expectancy of a year or less. It acts as a portable medical order that travels with you. If you are healthy, an advance directive is appropriate. However, there are people who benefit greatly from a POLST form. The first step is to talk to your health care team if you would like a POLST form.