Shared Decision Making

Health care decisions aren’t always easy. In some cases, there may be several options—each with its own benefits and risks. And, each patient has different goals, values and preferences that influence their thoughts and feelings about health care.

At the Center for Shared Decision Making, our team helps patients consider their healthcare options and make informed decisions based on what is most important to them. We empower patients to partner with their providers and make health care choices that feel “right.”

Shared Decision Making health coaches

Our team offers services that help patients consider their health care options and facilitate advance care planning. We also offer pre-appointment services to help patients organize their questions and concerns, as well as note-taking and recording services during provider visits. And, we offer workshops designed to give patients who are living with chronic conditions the skills and confidence they need to manage their health.

Whether a patient is making end-of-life care decisions or considering surgery, our Shared Decision Making team can help patients make the “right” decision for them.

About Shared Decision Making

Shared decision making is a patient-centered health care model that allows patients and providers to work together to develop a treatment plan that balances risks and benefits with patient goals, values and preferences.

The mission of the Center for Shared Decision Making—the first center of its kind to open in the U.S.—is to empower patients to be full partners in their care by helping them understand their medical choices and consider them in light of their personal goals, values and desires. Our free services include:

  • Decision Support Counseling. Our health coaches work closely with patients to help them consider their health care treatment options and make choices that reflect their personal goals, values and preferences. In addition to providing support during the decision making process and promoting strong patient-provider care partnerships, our health coaches also connect patients with decision aids and reliable sources of information.
  • Patient Support Corps (PSC). Our PSC staff and volunteers help patients get the most out of their health care visits. Our PSC team provides several services, including helping patients organize questions and concerns before appointments, accompanying patients to appointments and taking notes, and with permission, audio recording the conversation during the visit.
  • Honoring Care Decisions (HCD). Our Advance Care Planning facilitators help patients think about their goals for medical care and assist them in the advance planning process, particularly at the end of life. Our facilitators are available to meet with patients and their loved ones to help patients select a health care agent and complete an advance directive.
  • Self-management programs. We offer monthly workshops to help patients and caregivers learn new strategies and build confidence in managing a variety of chronic conditions, including pain, cancer and diabetes.
  • Patient decision aids. We work collaboratively with providers and the Knowledge Map team to create decision aids and tools that are available through our electronic medical record (EMR) system. These materials incorporate patient-specific data and promote shared decision making in the clinical setting.

Shared Decision Making program goals

A Shared Decision Making coaching session
  • Empower patients to be full partners in their care by helping them understand and consider their medical choices in light of their personal goals, values and preferences
  • Promote shared decision making partnerships between patients and providers
  • Make shared decision making a standard part of care at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and Clinics

I believe the Patient Support Corps is a very positive experience for the patients. It has never caused a delay in the flow of my clinic, and in fact, has made the visits more productive and focused. More importantly, it helps bring to the forefront the patients’ concerns so that they are appropriately addressed at the visit.

Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center provider

By the numbers

The Patient Support Corps has deepened my understanding of health care, introduced me to such a diverse group of individuals, and solidified my determination to dedicate my career to helping others.

Patient Support Corps volunteer

40 - Number of undergraduate students who assisted patients through the PSC program in 2018, up from 13 in 2015

600 - The number of patients assisted through the PSC program in 2018, up from 148 in 2015

1999 - The year the Center for Shared Decision Making opened its doors

12 - Number of self-management workshops offered between January 2019 and April 2019

Self-Management Programs

We are committed to providing the knowledge, tools and support to help our patients confidently manage their health. Our self-management program—which is the newest service provided by the Center for Shared Decision Making—offers workshops designed specifically for patients who are living with chronic conditions and their caregivers.

Our monthly workshops provide evidence-based information in a highly interactive small-group setting. The workshops are led by a pair of trained leaders, one or both of whom are non-health professionals who have a chronic disease. Our programs include:

  • Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Diabetes
  • Living a Healthy Life with Diabetes
  • Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Pain
  • Thriving and Surviving with Cancer
  • Workplace Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Disease (designed for the workplace)

The goal of the program is to give patients with chronic illnesses the confidence and strategies they need to live productive, healthy lives. All workshops address topics including:

  • How to deal with frustration, fatigue, pain and isolation
  • Ways to maintain and improve strength, flexibility and endurance
  • Managing medications
  • How to communicate more effectively with family, friends and health professionals
  • Healthy eating
  • Making weekly action plans to achieve self-management goals
  • Advance care planning

This is a program that doctors should encourage their patients to attend. It is good to be able to talk with others who are experiencing health issues, to hear how others are coping with their health, and get ideas for moving forward.

Self-Management Program participant

From January 2019 to April 2019, we offered 12 self-management workshops in various Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and Clinics facilities across the communities we serve. Since the inception of the self-management program, our workshops have helped hundreds of people manage their chronic health condition.

The Patient Support Corps is an invaluable service! We are so lucky to have these services at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center.