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Shared Decision-Making: Your Health, Your Decision

What is shared decision-making, and how can it help you choose a treatment that's right for you?

woman and doctor, shared decision making

When you make a big purchase or have an important decision to make, you're likely to seek others' opinions. You might ask, "What are the pros and cons of this choice?" Or you might read up on the topic so that you feel informed. The same process is important when it comes to your healthcare.

When people are involved in their healthcare decisions and talk about them with their doctor—a process called shared decision-making—the benefits can be big.

Research shows, for example, that people often feel less anxious when their treatment plan reflects their personal preferences. They also tend to have a quicker recovery and are more likely to comply with their treatment.

Related: 3 Tips for Choosing a Primary Care Doctor

How it works and when it helps

With shared decision-making, the conversation goes two ways. Your doctor explains your choices—such as a treatment, test, or procedure—plus the risks and benefits of each. (You might also talk about the option of not having any treatment.) And you share your questions, goals, and concerns.

You might benefit from a shared decision-making conversation if your medical care includes:

• Taking a medicine for the rest of your life

• Having a major surgery

• Getting genetic or cancer screening tests

Shared decision-making is especially important when there are several options that are reasonable or when no one choice has a clear advantage.

“At Intermountain Healthcare, we want to help patients live the healthiest lives possible, but we know that the “healthiest life” might mean something different for each patient. A significant part of shared decision-making is understanding a patient’s personal health goals.

Providers can help tailor treatment options to individual patients based on what the patient hopes to get out of treatment. For example, a patient with a goal of increasing his 10K race time might prefer different treatment than a patient who wants to be able to dance with his grand-daughter at her wedding. As you engage in shared decision-making with your provider, please consider what matters most to you about your health, says Dr. Will Daines, Medical Director at Intermountain Healthcare. 

Related: How to Find Health Insurance: Ask These 5 Questions

To help you further, your doctor might also point you to written material, websites, or videos that can help you decide what's right for you. You can bring your friends or family in on the discussion, too, if you think they can help.

The goal of shared decision-making is to help you make the best treatment choice for you.

While you’re here, check out our other articles on healthy living. For information on our medical and dental plans, visit selecthealth.org/plans.

References: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; American Cancer Society; HealthIT.gov; New England Journal of Medicine

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