Data helps patients engage in medical decision-making

Doctor patient
Access to EHRs and simplifying medical information can help patients take on a larger role in making decisions about their health.

Technology could be a critical tool in helping providers engage patients in shared decision-making, particularly when it comes to making medical information available and easily digestible.

Shared decision-making has become a critical element of ongoing initiatives tied to patient-centered care, with researchers highlighting the benefits of allowing patients to play a larger role in the decision-making process. But that approach means patients must have access to usable information, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Patients often defer to their doctor when making medical decisions because they find medical information to be overwhelming. Virtual decision aids offer a 21st century twist on an old staple, but doctors are looking for ways to make that information easily digestible. For example, researchers at the University of Michigan School of Public Health developed an app that translates risk data into easy-to-read graphics. Studies have validated this approach among women making decisions about breast cancer treatment options.

RELATED: OpenNotes assists with transparency, patient engagement

Research suggests that improving access to medical records is another way to improve shared-decision making. Hospitals that have adopted OpenNotes have discovered patients are more involved in their care and often more willing to follow the doctor's recommendations.

CT Lin, M.D., chief medical information officer at UCHealth in Colorado, which uses OpenNotes, told the WSJ that physicians are encouraged to use language in the medical record that reflects a mutual decision-making process.