Nearly 9 out of 10 upstate New York adults are aware of the term, “health care proxy" (HCP), according to a new survey commissioned by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. Among those who had heard the term, 89% know that it is a way to legally designate someone as your health care agent to represent you during a medical crisis in the event that you can’t speak for yourself.
Despite high awareness and knowledge of the HCP term, our survey revealed that only about 4 of 10 upstate NY adults have completed a health care proxy form. That’s disappointing, because so many people have had the experience of making gut-wrenching health care decisions for loved ones who were unable to communicate.
Excellus BCBS’s online survey regarding end-of-life care was administered by the polling firm One Research. 2,000 participants completed the survey. A county-level quota sampling method was used to ensure that it would be a representative sample of the region’s U.S. Census Bureau demographic profile.
When you select a health care agent, ideally it’s a person who knows your values, beliefs and goals for medical care. Your health care agent should be able to step into your shoes and choose interventions based on what matters most to you, and not what they would want for themselves.
Sharing your values, beliefs and goals for medical interventions and completing a health care proxy form are crucial to the advance care planning process. Filling out a HCP form legally documents your care wishes, and sharing your wishes ensures that your health care agent and other family members are aware of the proxy and its details. Among those surveyed who had not completed a health care proxy, more than half also had not shared their wishes with family and others.
About a third of survey respondents see the need to fill out a HCP, but have not completed a form. Being aware, and understanding the value, of a health care proxy is important, but unless you take the time to fill out the form, your wishes may not be carried out.
Age was a factor when it came to knowledge of the “health care proxy” term: 98% of respondents age 65 and older reported knowing the term, compared to 61% of survey respondents ages 18- to 24.
Other findings from the survey include:
• HCP awareness, knowledge and importance of completing the form were significantly higher among women than men.
• Respondents currently taking a prescription medication for a chronic condition had higher health care proxy awareness, knowledge and completion, compared with those not taking a prescription.
A free step-by-step booklet and discussion guide on advance care planning, including the HCP form, is available for download at CompassionAndSupport.org. Complete results of Excellus BCBS’s end-of-life survey establish a benchmark for awareness and completion of the HCP among upstate New York adults.