At a time when debate is swirling around healthcare reform, three students at the UR Medical Center have updated a website that allows users to quickly and easily fill out healthcare proxies and write living wills.

The website, called www.doyourproxy.org, has most recently been renovated by Walker Julliard, Nicholas Braus and Michael Nabozny, all members of the class of 2011 at URMC. None of these students had any substantial website design experience before doyourproxy.org, relying heavily on “Dreamweaver for Dummies” to complete the project.

The site allows users to create all the necessary documents to designate a health care agent, as well as articulate specific heathcare wishes to be referred to at a time when individuals are unable to speak on their own behalf. Filling in the boxes and answering the questions to create these documents — which can later be saved and printed — takes just minutes. Additionally, the entire process is free and privacy-protected.

Julliard hopes that the process of filling out healthcare proxies will be streamlined by doyourproxy.org, and that the new website will encourage more people to complete these important documents.

“The online form is very easy to use and many people feel more comfortable typing their thoughts in today’s computer-centered world, especially on a topic that can be very thought-provoking and difficult to put into words,” he said.

Julliard, Braus and Nabozny have also added an info/links page to the website, improving access to important information on the topic. Here, users can find answers to their questions about advance directives and look up relevant medical definitions without leaving the website.

According to Nabozny, another major goal in updating doyourproxy.org was to improve the website’s flexibility.

“The site has been made into a dynamic website with the hope that it would make updating and changing [it] easier,” he said.

In order to create an entirely new look for the site, the students even redesigned its logo.

Now that much of the redesigning of the site is complete, the students have turned their primary focus to promoting the website. According to Nabozny, they have been working with both outside organizations and departments within URMC to give the website a more substantial role in patient care.

“One example of this is to include the healthcare proxy discussion in the pre-operative work-up and allow a patient to go home, read more about advance care planning and decide if he or she would like to fill out a healthcare proxy and/or living will,” he said.

Additionally, they have been working with various community organizations and primary care physicians, and have even created a Facebook page to spread the word about doyourproxy.org.

Beyond simply increasing the number of people filling out proxy forms and writing living wills, Nabozny hopes that the newly re-designed website will eventually increase overall discussion about the topic.

“Most importantly, we hope this website spurs discussion of a topic that is often hard to talk about, and [that] people make the right choice about assuring their wishes for future healthcare when they can’t speak for themselves,” he said. “Oftentimes the person who will be making the decisions, whether a parent or spouse, is not the person you would like to make [them] … but they are forced to make a decision on your behalf.”

Discussion of advance directives in the Rochester area extends beyond the University however. The Rochester End-of-Life/Palliative Care Committee, for instance, is looking to recruit college students to help increase awareness about advance care. They’re even looking into more direct measures, such as encouraging filling out proxy forms as a part of college orientations.

Anne Fugle, M.D., who is currently a resident at URMC, originally created doyourproxy.org. Since then, the site underwent several renovations, with this latest one being one of the most substantial.

Because none of the students involved in the website’s facelift have much computer programming experience, both Julliard and Nabozny emphasized that if any UR undergraduates interested in computers wanted to help improve and maintain the website, they are more than welcome.

Fleming is a member of the class of 2013.



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