Surgery without a surrogate: the low prevalence of healthcare power of attorney documents among preoperative patients

Academic Article


  • BACKGROUND: There has been little published research regarding the implementation of healthcare power of attorney (HCPOA) documents prior to elective surgery. OBJECTIVES: This study aims to determine the prevalence of HCPOA documents incorporated into the electronic medical records (EMR) of patients undergoing elective surgery at four healthcare institutions. A secondary aim is to examine for correlations between HCPOA document implementation and demographic and preoperative clinical predictors. METHODS: A retrospective chart review was performed in 2012 on 500 consecutive adult patients undergoing elective surgery that required general anesthesia at four medical centers. A descriptive analysis and multivariate logistic regression analysis were performed to examine for associations between HCPOA implementation and hospital site, age, gender, ASA score, marital status, body mass index, insurance type, and zip code. RESULTS: Of 1723 charts reviewed, only 382 had a HCPOA document implemented within the EMR at the time of surgery with significant variance between hospital sites. Female sex, a widowed marital status, and an ASA score greater than 2 were significantly associated with having a HCPOA implemented in the EMR, while BMI, insurance type, and socioeconomic status based on zip code did not significantly correlate with the rate of HCPOA documentation. CONCLUSIONS: Less than a quarter (22.2%) of patients undergoing elective surgery requiring general anesthesia had a HCPOA document appropriately identified despite the known morbidity and mortality risks. The mere presence of EMR systems, palliative care consultation teams, and preoperative care teams are likely insufficient in ensuring appropriate surrogate documentation prior to elective surgery.
  • Authors

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Marks S; Wanner JP; Cobb AS; Swetz KM; Lange GM
  • Start Page

  • 28
  • End Page

  • 33
  • Volume

  • 47
  • Issue

  • 1