Making good decisions on healthcare

The NHS Rightcare Shared Decision Making project is one of the NHS initiatives I’ve been most pleased to be involved with over the last couple of years. It springs from a genuine desire to help people take more control over their healthcare decisions and participate more fully in the management of their health.

As luminary Sir Muir Gray is fond of pointing out, if operating on the wrong leg is a disastrous quality failure in healthcare, what about operating on the wrong patient? What could be more wasteful or harmful than subjecting someone to treatment that they don’t really want? Yet that’s what happens when people don’t fully understand the options for treatment, or feel pushed into agreeing with what the doctor advises, because they lack the knowledge or confidence to make an informed decision that’s right for them.

My part of the programme has been to work with the consumer health team at BMJ Group to research and write decision aids for people facing difficult decisions. The challenge has been to put across complex information in a way that makes it easy for people to understand, and to tease out what is important for the individual in making their own decisions.

We’ve worked with dozens of committed clinicians, who help patients make these decisions all the time. We’ve worked with patient representatives, and decision scientists, and countless others. The results can be found on the programme’s website, here. But to see how they work in practice, have a look at this video. It’s beautifully made and quite inspiring, after all the hard work.

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