Decision aids are tools — they can take the form of brochures, videos, or online worksheets and materials — designed to help you better understand your options and clarify what matters to you.
You can use a decision aid while working together with your health care team to decide what is most important to you in regard to your health and treatment options.
For example: Do you want to be able to maintain your current activities? Is living longer your top concern? Would
you prefer to avoid surgery? Decision aids can help you answer these questions, especially if you are choosing among several options.
Decision aids can help people make informed choices about:
Decision aids don't take the place of a thoughtful discussion with your health care team. The best aids support shared decision-making, which is when patients and clinicians work as a team to make care decisions.
These tools should also reflect the best-known evidence — that is what the science tells us about how each treatment works.
Decision aids are most helpful when:
After being diagnosed with a condition, decision aids can help you:
These tools, along with conversations with your health care team and perhaps connecting with other people through support groups, can guide you as you navigate the different treatment paths you could take.
Typically, decision aids will outline things we know to be true (called objective considerations) and personal opinion or feelings (called subjective considerations) to help determine how they fit with your goals.
Decision aids can take many forms. For the most part, these tools are designed to provide clear, consistent information about or explanation of the following:
There are many different types of decision aids. Some are online. Others are designed to be used during your doctor visit. Because people learn in different ways, the information may be presented in many formats:
For example, a decision aid about taking heart failure medication might be available in any or all of the following: as an online video, a brochure in a doctor’s office or an interactive website that includes a worksheet with scenarios based on
your answers to a set of questions.
Many decision aids are being added into electronic medical records. That makes it easier for the tools to be used as a routine part of a health visit when someone is diagnosed with a condition.
Patients who use decision aids tend to have:
Studies also show that patients who used a decision aid were less likely to choose an invasive elective surgery than those who did not consult a decision aid.
In addition, decision aids allow you to partner more closely with your doctor in making decisions.
Doctor’s offices are busy. Sometimes, there isn’t enough time to go over everything, and patients may not know the right questions to ask.
Even when health care professionals fully discuss the risks and benefits of one treatment over another, patients may not understand the information. Decision aids can help bridge this gap.