We invite you to watch this video to learn the basics about POLST.

In the video, some of this information is specific to Indiana, where POLST is called POST. Thank you to the Indiana POST Program for sharing this video.

POLST Basics

  • POLST = Portable Medical Orders. Nationally, POLST is not an acronym (but it used to be). Different states use different names such as POST, MOLST, MOST, etc. for their programs: view the complete list of names.
  • POLST is for people who are seriously ill or have advanced frailty. If you are healthy, an advance directive is for you. POLST forms and advance directives are both advance care plans but they are not the same.
  • POLST forms must be filled out and signed by health care provider. When you need a prescription, you go to your provider who writes or types an order for your prescription and signs it. POLST is a medical order so it is the same: you need to go to your health care provider who will write out the POLST and sign it. The difference with POLST is that you should have a good talk with your provider about what you want considering your current medical condition: What is likely to happen in the future? Treatment options? You’ll also be asked to sign your POLST form.
  • POLST forms tell other providers what you want. During a medical emergency, if you can talk, providers will ask you what you want. POLST forms are used only when you cannot communicate and you need medical care. When that is the situation, the POLST form orders providers to give you the treatments you chose.
  • POLST forms are out-of-hospital medical orders. This means that they are medical orders that travel with you. Wherever you are, your POLST form tells health care providers what treatments you want and your goals of care, even if you transfer from hospital to nursing home, back to your home, or to hospice or another setting.
  • POLST is voluntary. You make the choice about having a POLST form: you should never be forced to have one! If you are healthy, however, your provider may choose not sign a POLST form for you since it was designed for people who are seriously ill or have advanced frailty (some state laws do not allow providers to sign a POLST form unless you are seriously ill or have advanced frailty).

Next Step

Learn how to prepare for a POLST conversation in our Starting POLST page.