Electronic decision aids to improve doctor-patient talks

An international team of researchers has developed a prototype electronic decision aid to help keep medical information up to date and to foster meaningful conversations between patients and their doctors.

Their research, published at the British Medical Journal, describes how they built 10 decision aids on antithrombotic drugs.

Traditionally, decision aids involved a lot of material printed out and sent home with the patient, with the idea that they would read it later and discuss it with their doctor. That often didn't happen, and it was a chore to keep that material updated, according to the report.

These new decision aids, called SHARE-IT, present medical information and evidence summaries in simple formats that can be viewed during a doctor visit on a tablet or computer. The information can be translated to different languages or adapted to national context, according to an announcement on the research.

"[Y]ou both sit down in front of the tablet and you dive in and talk about what's most important to the patient first," lead author Thomas Agoritsas, a research fellow of the Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, says in the announcement.

The decisions aids employ the GRADE approach (Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation) to developing guidance from the medical literature and are one of the projects from the non-profit initiative MAGIC (Making GRADE the Irresistible Choice.) Its MAGICapp platform allows users to publish guidelines, evidence summaries and decision aids on all devices without requiring any additional software to be installed.

Patients want more information from their doctors to help them make decisions, according to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. They want to know their options--not just the doctor's best recommendation--and especially information about how each option might affect their quality of life.

In addition, decision aids that include visuals can help patients better understand the risks their doctor is talking about, NPR reported.

To learn more:
- read the article
- here's the announcement
- learn more about the MAGIC projects

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