Software Tools Facilitate Shared Decision Making; A Win-Win for Physicians and Patients

December 1, 2014

by Joan Trezek

Joan Trezek“I changed doctors because we just weren’t communicating.”

“I really like my doctor; I feel like I’m important and being listened to.”

While phrases like patient engagement and shared decision making weren’t much in evidence a few years ago, they are very popular in today’s healthcare environment, where comments from both ends of the patient-viewpoint spectrum are common.

Opinions may differ on exactly what these phrases mean, but clearly they suggest collaboration between patients and their physician (or nurse, or physical therapist, etc.) and a sense that both parties agree on a health goal or outcome. Two West Coast organizations, UCLA Medical Center and Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center, are working to make positive contributions in the area of enhancing patient-physician (clinician) communications.

Shared decision making at UCLA Medical Center

Shared decision making (SDM) is especially valuable when the health issue is complex and a number of treatment modalities are possible—with cancer being the prime example. Radiation therapy, surgery, medication, or some combination of these options, depending on many factors, may be offered for the patient’s consideration.

UCLA Medical Center has implemented a flexible SDM model. One aspect of its program addresses patients with chronic conditions such as hip or knee arthritis, spinal stenosis, and herniated disk. The medical center participates in a national study known as the High Value Healthcare Collaborative led by researchers at Dartmouth.

Patients are identified for possible enrollment based on the ICD-9 Code. They are then contacted by a health coach, trained by the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, and invited to participate in the SDM program. The patient completes an online questionnaire to create a comprehensive health picture and a report is generated.

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