Do you know what April 16th is? It is the day after Uncle Sam collects his money, but more importantly, it is National Healthcare Decisions Day. The formal designation of National Healthcare Decisions Day is the result of a major effort from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) and other national, state and community organizations to communicate the importance of advance healthcare planning.

NHPCO is providing information and tools for the public to talk about their advance care wishes with family, friends and healthcare providers, and complete written advance directives. Advance directives allow you to document your end-of-life wishes in the event that you are terminally ill or critically injured and unable to talk or communicate.

The NHPCO has developed state-specific advance directive forms and information on advance care planning through the Caring Connections program. Additionally, Caring Connections and Google Health™ partnered last year to increase the availability and accessibility of advance care planning information and resources online through the Google Health PHR.

The Google Health PHR could be a beneficial tool to stimulate conversation between family members regarding advance care issues, and create a secure and accessible place to house this information. Google Health enables users to download a free, state-specific advance directive and store the scanned documents securely online. Online access to this information could be critical in emergency situations when healthcare providers need advance directive documentation quickly.

Advance care planning is another example of how PHRs can motivate consumers to take control of their healthcare and end-of-life wishes. It may be the tool that helps families and friends bring up this often difficult conversation, and help medical providers gain access to this information quickly so that they can make the appropriate advance care decisions in critical situations.