Virginia on Wednesday launched a registry for residents to let friends and families know their health care wishes if they are unable to make their own decisions.
The state Department of Health's Advance Health Care Directive Registry will securely store important documents on the Internet to protect legal rights and ensure medical wishes are honored if residents are incapacitated or unable to speak for themselves.
The registry allows people to store their advanced health care directive, power of attorney, organ donation information and other documents in order to let medical providers, emergency responders, family members, and anyone else they give access honor their desires.
Without advance planning, officials say most decisions are left to family members, so having the documents available helps them make those difficult choices.
"As we become a very mobile society, we need to have the ability to not have these documents just be in our safe-deposit boxes, but to be somewhere where people can access (them)," Dr. Karen Remley, the state health commissioner, said at a news conference.
Anyone who signs up for the registry will get an identification card with their personal registry information. Residents also can share access to their information with anyone they wish.
Officials say all of the information will be kept confidential and will only be used by authorized individuals.
The service, which is a public-private partnership between the state, UNIVAL Inc. and Microsoft Corp., is free and available at www.virginiaregistry.org. It also has links to help residents create their own advance health care directives or living wills.
The registry also will work with the statewide Health Information Exchange, the electronic system where patient records are accessible to health care providers.
Several other states have similar registries.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.