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Shared Decision Making: Celebrating an Anniversary – and a New Beginning

Honoring Care Decisions

This move will serve to strengthen and grow our strategies for assisting patients as they make vital health care decisions.

Sue Hanlon, Director, D-H Knowledge Map

In 1999, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) opened the first Center for Shared Decision Making in the United States. Building on the pioneering work of Jack Wennberg, MD, and numerous other researchers at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice (formerly known as the Center for Evaluative and Clinical Sciences), the center pioneered the philosophy and practice of engaging patients in their own health care decisions. The Center for Shared Decision Making now serves as the gold standard for health care systems seeking to integrate this philosophy, recently hosting a team of medical center researchers and practitioners from Germany seeking guidance to launch a similar program.

Over the past 20 years, advances in technology and decision aids have changed many of the practices of shared decision making—but not the center’s philosophy of engaging patients as partners in their health care journey. The axiom, “nothing about me, without me,” guides the work of the center. As health care becomes more complex, it is increasingly important to provide patients with the knowledge and tools they need to articulate their values, define their health goals and work with care teams to achieve best possible outcomes.

To accommodate the needs of a multidisciplinary team dedicated to advancing the tools and expertise to support patients and care teams, the Center for Shared Decision Making will be relocating to 46 Centerra Parkway in Lebanon. It will now be part of The Dartmouth Centers for Health and Aging, increasing access for patients seeking associated services, including numerous support groups, exercise classes and community outreach meetings offered through the Dartmouth-Hitchcock (D-H) Aging Resource Center.                                                                                                                                                       

Thoughtful and integrative patient care

When the Center for Shared Decision Making launched, health care decision aids were primarily educational pamphlets providers would review with patients. Now, there are a number of virtual tools that assist with advancing patients’ understanding of the health care options available to them. The range of these tools is broad, including preventive screening and specific disease entities.

“Over the years, D-H has successfully embedded decisions aids throughout the health system as part of our clinical pathways and best practices. It is part of the fabric of everything we do,” explains Sue Hanlon, director of the D-H Knowledge Map.

The Center for Shared Decision Making Medical Director Cathleen Morrow, MD, notes, “D-H is committed to facilitating patients’ active participation in their health care decisions, and the center is essential to that commitment. We are keenly aware that the best outcomes in health care are achieved by the best informed patients, and we strive to provide the education and support needed at every level.”

The center’s multidisciplinary team is excited to continue to offer all of its services including decision support counseling, interactive self-management workshops for patients with chronic illnesses, Patient Support Corps and advance care planning. The team provides one-on-one counseling across a wide range of health care decisions and is committed to developing true patient partnerships. Team members welcome questions and inquiries.

Moving into the future

The move to the Dartmouth Centers for Health and Aging will improve capacity for the Center for Shared Decision Making. “We’ll be able to share resources, enhance our services and advance our technology with new virtual tools,” Hanlon says. “The Center for Shared Decision Making is committed to having patient-friendly physical and virtual spaces to address health care decision needs. This move will serve to strengthen and grow our strategies for assisting patients as they make vital health care decisions.”

Patients are encouraged to contact the Center for Shared Decision Making for additional information about their various services at (603) 650-5578 or csdm@hitchcock.org.


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