Over the last several years, an increasing number of doctors are helping patients make informed decisions about their treatments to improve the quality of their care. Rather than telling patients and their families which treatment they should get for a disease, infection or health condition, doctors are working with patients and their families to choose the right treatment for them. Because the Affordable Care Act encourages shared decision-making about health care, it is getting greater attention.
Health-care decisions should be about people’s priorities and goals, given the risks and benefits of different treatments. What is most important to you? What are you most worried about? In the best cases, people or their health buddies ask questions of doctors about treatment options and take notes so that they can make an informed choice.
Decision aids such as pamphlets, videos and web tools can also be invaluable in explaining and helping people understand risks and benefits of different treatment options. The degree of detail needed is not well understood, though more detail can improve people’s understanding of options and give them greater clarity on their personal values. The evidence suggests that these aids may keep people from electing optional surgery and have no evident negative effect on health outcomes or patient satisfaction.
Shared decision-making can also lead to better health outcomes. In the case of acute respiratory infections, helping patients understand the risks of antibiotics, which offer few benefits, has led to fewer antibiotic prescriptions, without an increase in repeat visits for the same condition or a decrease in patient satisfaction.
Indeed, shared decision-making generally makes for more satisfied patients. UCSF is a leader in this area with its Patient Support Corps.
Here are four questions to ask to help ensure your doctor is meeting your needs. And, here’s why it’s important to have a good primary care doctor. Your satisfaction depends on it. Here are some tips on how to choose one.