Palo Alto Medical Foundation Newsroom

Partners in Medical Decision Making

The Palo Alto Medical Foundation, in partnership with the PAMF Research Institute and University of California, San Francisco, is one of 11 primary care demonstration sites around the United States that will contribute to understanding how to integrate shared decision making and decision aids into day-to-day clinical practice. The Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making (FIMDM), a non-profit organization whose mission is to inform and amplify the patient’s voice in health care decisions, is providing funding for this new program.

For many medical problems there are multiple options for what you and your doctor can do, but often times there is no ‘best’ choice. “When making decisions like these, which are often called preference sensitive decisions, there is no right or wrong choice and what you decide depends on how you value the risks and benefits of the different options,” said Dominick Frosch, Ph.D. an investigator at the PAMF Research Institute , who is leading the new program about shared decision-making at PAMF. “Shared decision-making (SDM) is one approach to making preference sensitive decisions that aims to support you as a patient and foster your partnership with your doctor. In SDM, patients and physicians communicate together and come to mutual decision about medical care that reflects the patient’s values and preferences.”

The importance of SDM has been recognized by the recent Health Care Reform Bill, which includes provisions that establish programs to facilitate SDM, establish quality measures for their use, and develop tools that are adaptable for patients from different cultural and educational backgrounds. This new initiative at PAMF, called the Partners in Medical Decision Making Program, aims to raise awareness of and integrate Shared Decision Making (SDM) into primary care, and use decision aids to facilitate SDM. Decision aids are informational tools for patients, such as DVDs, booklets and workbooks, that are intended to help patients understand their condition and the available treatment options. Decision aids can also help patients clarify their preferences and values when making medical decisions related to their treatment.

The Partners in Medical Decision Making Program is a pilot program testing the integration of SDM and provision of decision aids at five of PAMF’s primary care clinics.  During appointments, different topics are being prescribed to eligible patients by care teams at each of the five participating clinics. Current topics include Back Pain, Colon Cancer Screening, Knee and Hip Osteoarthritis, Depression, Abnormal Uterine Bleeding and Uterine Fibroids. Additionally, patients may visit PAMF’s Community Health Resource Center in Palo Alto, where a registered nurse health educator can provide any of the currently available decision aids. “By making decision aids available to patients, the Partners in Medical Decision Making Program aims to empower PAMF patients, facilitate their participation in SDM and make informed choices about their medical care,” said Laurel Trujillo, M.D. , PAMF Medical Director of Quality and Partners in Medical Decision Making Physician Champion.

Learn more about The Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making (FIMDM) and Shared Decision Making.

Learn more about the PAMF Research Institute.

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