Palm Springs Law Blog

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Technology Meets Tradition: Digital Healthcare Proxies in the Palm Springs Landscape

Medical emergencies are usually the last thing that people want to think about in everyday life. But having a plan for any situation can provide you with invaluable protection and peace of mind. Writing out your wishes also makes it easier for your loved ones to care for you, even if you are unable to make decisions on your own. 

When it comes to incapacity planning, a healthcare proxy is an essential document in California. Here’s what you need to know about digital healthcare proxies and other advance directives in the Palm Springs legal landscape. 

Basics of Advance Directives

Advanced directives are a set of legal documents that provide detailed instructions for your medical care should you become incapacitated. The main types of documents you’ll encounter include:

Living Wills

A living will outlines your medical wishes in certain situations, such as terminal illness or permanent unconsciousness. It may include information about certain treatments you do not wish to receive, instances where you want to discontinue medical care, and giving or receiving organ donations. 

Healthcare Proxies

A healthcare proxy designates a trusted person — called your “agent” — to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. 

If you have a living will, your agent will ensure medical providers comply with those wishes. If you do not have a living will, or if you are experiencing a situation that the living will does not account for, your agent will make decisions in accordance with what they believe you would have wanted. 

While a healthcare proxy is commonly referred to as a durable power of attorney for health care, it’s important to note that it is not the same as a durable power of attorney (POA). 

A typical durable POA only accounts for financial and legal matters, and without specific documentation regarding healthcare matters, your agent will not be able to make medical decisions on your behalf. 

HIPAA Authorizations

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law designed to protect your privacy and rights as a patient. Unfortunately, there have been some instances where healthcare facilities have refused to share important information about a patient’s medical condition, even with the agent outlined in a medical proxy. 

Without a HIPAA authorization form, your agent and other trusted parties may not be able to access your medical information to make informed decisions regarding your care. These forms are a crucial but often overlooked component in an advance directive plan. 

Digital Advance Directive Documents

As with most legal documents, healthcare proxies and other advance directives have traditionally been filed on paper only. Thanks to modern technology, though, it’s now possible to store them digitally. 

If you have an electronic document, you can easily share it with your medical providers, loved ones, and healthcare agents. That way, if any emergencies do come up, all necessary parties will be able to easily access your advance directives. 

While you are able to store these documents digitally, you may still need to fill out physical copies and have them notarized. The process of having the paperwork notarized adds an extra layer of assurance and legitimacy by involving a certified professional who can confirm your identity and witness your signature. 

Your Trusted Wills and Trusts Attorney in Palm Springs, CA

Taking a proactive approach to incapacity planning is an investment in the peace of mind and well-being of yourself and your loved ones. With that being said, creating detailed, legally sound, and easy-to-access advance directives isn’t always an easy task in California. 

If you have questions about planning for your medical future or need help filling out these complex documents, turn to the estate planning lawyers at Heritage Legal, PC. Our team proudly helps Palm Springs residents navigate local laws and put their medical wishes on paper. Contact us to schedule a consultation today.

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