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Shared decision making and health information

Health decisions often have no single ‘best choice’ and may require a choice to be made from several options. For patients (and carers) to understand risks and have the opportunity to be actively involved in sharing decisions, clinicians need to provide clear and relevant information about treatment options, and the potential benefits, risks, trade-offs and uncertainties of each. This information should reflect the best available evidence, and take into account the patient’s personal opinions, preferences, values and priorities.

This exchange of information, and discussion of preferences and options provides the basis for informed consent. In 2019–20, the Commission reviewed current guidance, including legal requirements and key principles, for informed consent, and developed a fact sheet for clinicians describing best practice in informed consent.

The Commission completed a structured review of consumer information on birth options, focused on caesarean section and vaginal birth. The review identified high-quality information resources that can be used to support consumers’ decision-making. The findings of this review were published in a report developed in June 2020.

The Commission recognises that some populations may have different requirements, expectations and preferences for information about health and health care. To help address these differences, consumer resources developed by the Commission are provided in languages other than English, and in formats such as braille, audio and Easy English.

In 2019–20, the Commission began a project to help guide future development of consumer resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander audiences. As part of this work, the Commission engaged the Cultural and Indigenous Research Centre Australia to undertake a review of health resources developed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The findings of this research were published in 2019–20 and will inform the Commission’s approach to developing or adapting consumer resources for this group.

During 2019–20, the Commission gave presentations on health literacy and shared decision making at five conferences, seminars and training sessions for clinicians, managers and consumers.