They are those postings by people who invest time and energy to give their feedback on a recent purchase experience on sites like Yelp, Angie’s List or Amazon. Reading those reviews often helps us decide if the item or service is right for us.
Customer reviews have helped me determine if the hiking poles I planned to buy were light yet sturdy enough for my use and whether the new restaurant in town was worth trying. Online customer reviews can even help us with purchases that are more a matter of personal choice, like vacation destinations, music or books.
Remember the old-school way for gathering information on a potential purchase? We’d talk to friends, read Consumer Reports or ask questions of salespeople. That was it.
Help with making decisions is much more accessible today with customer review systems. Maybe not all decisions can be made using these reviews, but there’s one area that is ripe for greater support in making choices: healthcare.
To my knowledge, there is no online customer review system to aid us in healthcare decisions such as advance planning and care and comfort measures. Choices regarding healthcare are often fraught with emotions and complexities, which make options difficult to contemplate and harder still to talk over with others.
Despite no online review system, there are tools available that we can use today.
We now have a day dedicated to holding the conversation about our healthcare choices. National Healthcare Decisions Day is April 16, the day after the deadline for filing our federal taxes. At www.nhdd.org you can view a threeminute video that explains what healthcare decisions are all about.
Five Wishes at www.agingwithdignity.org guides users on important choices, including the person they want to make decisions for them, the kind of medical treatment they want, how comfortable they want to be, how they want people to treat them when they are sick and what they want loved ones to know.
Go Wish Cards, which you can play online for free at www.gowish.org, lets you sort cards based on personal choices to discover your healthcare wishes.
There are legal documents that underscore and support our choices. An advance healthcare directive lets your physician, family and friends know your healthcare preferences, including your desire for diagnostic testing, surgical procedures, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and organ donation, as well as the types of special treatment you want or don’t want at the end of life. You can download a directive at http:// oag.ca.gov/consumers/general/ adv_ hc_ dir.
Another important but little known legal document is a POLST (physician’s order for life-sustaining treatment). Meant to be used in conjunction with an advance healthcare directive, this simple one-page doublesided form signed by a physician benefits those who have a chronic progressive illness or a serious health condition and those who are frail and elderly.
The POLST form makes an individual’s choices very clear, especially during emergency situations. You can download the California POLST at http:// capolst.org.
There is a lot more conversation these days about our healthcare choices, in part because there are so many more choices available, each coming with their own set of pros and cons.
Maybe it is wishful thinking that someone would develop an online “review system” for families and friends who have dealt with a loved one’s healthcare choices that were expressed clearly or not expressed at all.
Imagine gathering all that feedback. I believe it wouldn’t take too many reviews to see what a gift we give our loved ones when we clearly state our healthcare choices and have conversations about them in advance of an emergency. Let’s see how it might look:
POLST: 5 out of 5 stars (10,527 reviews)
“A wonderful healthcare decision tool that my father and his doctor had the foresight to complete after my father’s Parkinson’s diagnosis. After conversation and completing the form, my father, mother, siblings and Dad’s doctor were all of one mind. It made what could have been a series of emotionally crippling choices crystal clear for all of us. It was a true blessing.”