Jul 052011

The Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ) Effective Health Care Program site encourages patients to be proactive in making treatment decisions, offering a series of how-to guides, treatment guidelines, and real-patient stories about making health care decisions. The site puts the results of various research studies into plain-language information for consumers and families. According to an AHRQ press release, the campaign aims to increase consumers’ involvement in their care by providing easy access to unbiased information about treatment options and tools. It features television, radio, print, web and outdoor ads encouraging consumers to visit AHRQ’s Effective Health Care Program website to find plain-language guides that summarize the scientific evidence on treatments for numerous medical conditions.

Several of the guides should prove useful to patients and caregivers, including older adults and those facing end-of-life decisions, In particular, a series of tips on how to get the most out of visits to doctors’ offices and how to work with doctors provides useful information on medication management, talking about symptoms, and understanding treatment options and decisions. Also useful is a self-assessment, the Health Priorities Snapshot, aimed at understanding quality of life issues; patients rank the importance of being able to engage in common daily activities while undergoing treatment.

The treatment option guides range from issues surrounding heart health and musculoskeletal problems to mental health and pregnancy and childbirth. None of the guidelines, however, speak directly to issues facing frail elders and their caregivers; there is nothing on living with a serious illness that will prove fatal, for instance, or on treatment decisions surrounding Alzheimer disease. The site does a good job of encouraging patients to be partners in their care, and over time, perhaps, guides of special interest to older adults and their caregivers will be added.

“We see the best outcomes when doctors and patients work together to come up with a treatment plan that takes into account the patient’s quality-of-life concerns,” said AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D. “Information is power in health care, and this campaign will provide patients with the information they need to become partners with their doctors in their health and health care.” The ads and the new website features can be found at https://effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/.

Keywords: patient decisionmaking, patient activation, treatment options, social marketing, evidence-based treatment guidelines

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