Shared decision making and strengthening the role of the health care consumer  

Improving the performance of our health care system requires collaboration between all stakeholders – providers, purchasers, health plans and consumers. For a decade, the Alliance has worked to strengthen the role of the health consumer through a number of activities, including: Choosing Wisely, our patient experience survey, the Consumer Engagement Committee and the Own Your Health campaign. As advocates for health care consumers, we are part of a growing movement to promote shared decision making, which is gaining support both nationwide and in our own state.

Shared decision making occurs when a health care provider and a patient (including family members or their caregivers) work together, often using a tool called a patient decision aid, to make a health care decision that is best for the patient. Research shows that the use of patient decision aids leads to patients better understanding their care – including the risks, benefits and costs of each option – and moves patients from a passive to active role in their health. For example, a patient decision aid could help a pregnant woman who previously had a cesarean section to determine if she is a good candidate for a vaginal birth after cesarean, or VBAC.

We are lucky to be in a state that has prioritized shared decision making through legislation and active work. The Bree Collaborative, for example, includes shared decision making as a fundamental recommendation in many of their reports. An important component of Washington State’s Healthier Washington initiative is consumer engagement through the promotion and certification of patient decision aids. The State is also putting shared decision making into their Accountable Care Program contracts.

For providers who are new to this field, it can be difficult to find resources to help them incorporate shared decision making into their practice. That is why we are excited to be partnering with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the Washington State Health Care Authority and Group Health Cooperative to host free, one-day train-the-trainer workshops on shared decision making. This year, AHRQ is only offering 12 of these workshops nationwide, and we are hosting two here in Washington state, on February 2 and February 4. The workshops will train health care leaders who will in turn go back to their organizations and communities to train others in shared decision making. These workshops are the launch of a statewide learning network to support ongoing implementation of shared decision making.

Shared decision making empowers patients with information and choice and we are excited to see it grow in our state. Helping patients become informed consumers and better “own” their health will help move the system to one that rewards meaningful, high-value care.  Thank you for your ongoing support of the Alliance and for all you do to advance our mutual goals in these areas.

Published: November 6, 2015

About Nancy A. Giunto

Nancy A. Giunto is executive director of the Washington Health Alliance. Ms. Giunto served 14 years as executive director of Foster Pepper law firm in Seattle. She has had a long career in health care, with experience at National Institutes of Health in Washington D.C. and the American Hospital Association. She has held leadership positions at Intermountain Health Care and Providence Health & Services.

2 Responses to “Shared decision making and strengthening the role of the health care consumer  ”

  1. Sherry Reynolds @cascadia

    Congratulations! As one of the co-founders of the Alliance Consumer Advisory Board and the co-chair of the Choosing Wisely – Consumer Task Force you have our full support.
    This is absolutely the direction our health care systems need to be moving. Not only is their clinical evidence of its efficacy but it is foundational to a new collaborative partnership model of health that many of us who volunteer as patient centered design advocates have supported for years.

    • Washington Health Alliance

      Thank you, Sherry, for your continuing support of this important work!

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