Patients and those who care for them have more options than ever before for managing medical conditions. Making informed choices among different treatment options can be a challenge and, sometimes, frustrating. The decision-making process ideally would take into account the best evidence available about the benefits and harms of any approach, as well as a patient’s individual characteristics, values, and preferences. Most people want to be involved in decisions about their health care, but many patients and their families feel distanced or excluded from choices about which tests they’ll get, which medicines they’ll take, and which procedures they’ll undergo.

Increasingly, shared decision making is being used to address these concerns. In shared decision making, a clinician provides a patient with information about diagnostic or treatment options, including potential benefits and harms, in a form the patient finds easy to understand. The patient is prompted to explain his or her preferences about the potential outcomes that can be expected given those options, concerns about how and where care is delivered and ability to get back to normal activities, and other issues of importance to him or her. The clinician and patient then discuss which diagnostic or treatment plan makes the most sense given the patient’s preferences.

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