Decision Aids

What are Decision Aids?

Patient decision aids are designed to help people make specific, deliberative choices. They clarify the choice a patient has to make, provide information on the options and outcomes that are relevant to their health status and clarify personal values.

Patient decision aids are different than patient education materials because they aim to personalize the decision for the individual patient and facilitate patient involvement, rather than simply provide explanatory information about diseases and their management. 

For some decisions, there is clear evidence that a test or treatment should be recommended. Its benefits clearly outweigh any harms, and it may be lifesaving. Even with a recommended approach (Entwistle et al., 2012) some patients will remain uncertain and want more detailed information (Walker et al., 2012). A decision aid may be a very well-received option in such cases. Patient decision aids are most commonly used when there is a trade-off between benefits and harms and where patient preferences have an important role to play.  It is important to ensure that the tool aligns with the decision the patient is facing.

Decision Aid Examples

The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute A to Z Inventory of Pediatric Patient Decision Aids contains links to publicly available patient decision aids. While the information is housed on the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute  website, they are not owned by the Ottawa  Hospital Research Institute. These resources may be helpful for adults, children and youth. Please note: some of the drugs and procedures mentioned in the patient decision aids are not available in Canada.

Aids such as pamphlets, videos, or web-based tools and/or graphics can be concise or detailed; they can be provided in hard copy or online; and can be used within or outside the consultation. Many are based on a theoretical framework.

Example 1:  Formats for patient decision aids (used prior to or within a consultation)

  • Print
  • DVD/Video
  • Online/Computer-based

Example 2: Evidence Presentation

Example 2: How to compare the risks.

Example 3: Ottawa Family Decision Guide

Often there is not a patient decision aid for the specific decision and health condition under consideration. The Ottawa Family Decision Guide is a tool that can be used by people facing any kind of difficult health or social decision. This guide has been translated into French, Swedish, Dutch, Spanish German and Japanese.

Patient decision aids and the Ottawa Family Decision Guide are intended to support counseling from a healthcare professional. Always consult your healthcare professional to see if a particular patient decision aid applies to you and your family.

Family Decision Guide

Other Resources

The Ottawa Hospital Patient Decision Aid group remains active.  Their inventory contains both adult and  pediatric tools   

Cincinnati Children’s has a small pocket of clinicians interested in SDM.   

Dartmouth Hitchcock in Boston has been known as being a leader in this area. 

Decision Aid Inventory

Decision Aid Tools

10 Point Conflict Scale

16 Point Conflict Scale Shared Decision Making 

Post Decision Coaching Questionnaire

Post Knowledge and Satisfaction Scale