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Implementation of Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment in Nursing Homes in California: Evaluation of a Novel Statewide Dissemination Mechanism



Implementing Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) forms aims to improve communication of life-sustaining treatment preferences across care venues. California enabled this clinical tool in 2009, and a novel intervention of community coalitions was undertaken to advance POLST in localities around the state. Coalitions engaged facilities, including nursing homes (NHs), to foster POLST adoption. Eighteen months after introduction of POLST, we studied POLST implementation in California NHs.


NHs randomly selected in coalition and non-coalition areas were mailed surveys about POLST preparation and use in 2010. Coalitions identified which NHs they worked with.


Of 546 NHs surveyed, 143 (52 %) in coalition areas and 141 (52 %) in non-coalition areas responded. In 82 % of responding NHs, staff received POLST education and 59 % of NHs reported having a formal policy on handling POLST. Two-thirds of NHs had admitted a resident with a POLST, and 15 % of newly admitted residents over the past month had a POLST (range 0-100 %). Eighty-one percent of NHs had completed a POLST with a resident. Fifty-four percent of residents were estimated to have a POLST (range 0-100 %) (coalition area NHs 60 % vs. non- coalition area NHs 48 %, p = 0.02). Within coalition areas, NHs that had worked with coalitions were more likely to have completed a POLST with a resident after admission than NHs that had not worked with coalitions. Few NHs (7 %) reported difficulty following POLST orders, but 38 % noted difficulty involving physicians in POLST completion.


Less than 2 years after introduction, many California nursing homes report using POLST, although some NHs reported no experience. A novel community coalition intervention facilitated POLST implementation.

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