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Using digital advance care planning to optimise health care outcomes

In this article, Jane Fischer, palliative care specialist and Chair of the Touchstone Life Care Advisory Committee, explains the importance of creating an advance care plan and how using Touchstone Life Care’s digital platform for advance care planning can optimise health care outcomes.

As a specialist palliative care physician with extensive involvement with the palliative care sector over many years, I have been passionate about encouraging patients and their families to have open discussions about their preferences for care at the end of life so that we ensure people receive optimal, high-quality care in the setting of their choice.

The advance care planning process is not a static one and people’s preferences may well change over time, however having an Advance Care Plan (ACP) clearly documented, assists health professionals in providing appropriate treatments in line with the individual’s wishes, can prevent unnecessary admissions to hospital and also assists health professionals with discussions and decision making with families and carers if the individual is not able to communicate or loses competency. From a broader health system perspective there are also resource implications with a reduction in burdensome treatments and admissions to hospitals in the last year of life.

The many advantages of digital health-based records over a paper-based system are well documented. There is an improvement in the quality and safety of care, treatment decisions are aligned with patient wishes, there is a reduction in errors, duplication of information, efficiency gains for health professionals and better integrated care with improved communication and sharing of records between health providers.  

The development of a digital ACP by Touchstone Life Care is innovative and timely as Australia is facing many challenges in order for us to provide optimal health care to our ageing population.

The Touchstone Life Care digital ACP has been developed by experts and driven by the CEO Dr Merran Cooper in response to her own personal experience. I am delighted to be able to support her in my role as Chair of the TLC Advisory Committee.

The digital ACP is a Cloud-based platform that offers many advantages over a paper-based document, as there is no need to scan a paper-based document and upload it. Other advantages of the digital ACP include:

  • Comprehensive and available in different languages
  • Secure with access via a QR code, however, can be shared with others as documented by the individual when completing the plan and easily accessed in an emergency by health professionals
  • Meets privacy requirements
  • Meets common law requirements in all jurisdictions.
  • Interoperable with other e-record systems, including Medical Director, My Health Record, and eCase in aged care
  • Potential to add other care plans to the platform
  • Easily accessed by health professionals across settings which is particularly valuable with the interface between aged care settings and health providers.  
  • Support provided to the individual and their selected family members and education provided to staff of service providers

From the patient and family perspective it is very easy to complete and as we know that peoples wishes may change over time, the Digital ACP can be easily updated with no ambiguity about which is the most recent plan. It also encourages discussions between family members and relevant decision makers.

From the GP, health, aged care or disability provider perspective it is easily accessed, guides decision making and assists with communication between services ensuring the delivery of better integrated care and outcomes for the individual concerned at the end of life.

For Board directors in the health and aged care sector responsible for clinical governance, having a digital ACP that identifies people’s needs and their preferences for care will ensure that they are recipients of a quality end of life experience. It will assist staff, avoiding duplication and improving efficiency, enable better resource allocation and ensure compliance with the Aged Care Quality Standards.

The TLC digital ACP has the potential to transform the planning and delivery of end of life care and should be considered by health and aged care providers.


Picture of Jane Fischer, MBBS FAChPM GAICD


Jane is a former CEO in the public health sector in Victoria and an experienced Board Chair in the Not-for-Profit Sector. She is currently a Mercy Health Board Director and Chair of the Board Quality Committee. She is also Chair of the Touchstone Life Care Advisory Committee.

Jane has a medical background, specialising in Palliative Medicine and has worked in both metropolitan and rural settings. She has extensive knowledge of the health, aged and disability sectors and over 20 years experience in senior health executive roles including CEO/Medical Director at Calvary Health Care Bethlehem and was Chair of Palliative Care Australia for 5 years.