Making Decisions about Your Care

Improve communication with your health care team so you can address the things that matter most to you.

About The Issue

When you face a serious illness, it means making decisions about your treatment, your care, and your life.  The best, most patient-centered health care results when patients and caregivers communicate with health care professionals to make decisions together. We call this shared decision making. Patients can advocate for themselves and caregivers can advocate for their loved ones by learning how to make true shared decisions.


This includes:

  • Having a relationship in which you trust your doctor and health care team, and they trust you
  • Gathering enough information about your illness and its treatment to make good choices about your treatment and care
  • Making treatment choices that provide the best clinical outcomes 
  • Balancing the benefits and risks of treatment options with what matters to you and the people who love and care for you
  • Ensuring that decisions result in the right treatment for every patient at the right time

Here’s what patients say shared decision means to them.

It’s the ability to customize the experience and do so in a perspective that is informed. It’s a way to take control of the experience so that I have a quality of life that is sustainable over a long period of time.



The doctor looked at me and said, ‘The good news is the cancer is 100% treatable and I can go on that journey with you.’ He told me everything that was going on, everything that was going to happen with my body, but he said, "Everything is our choice, our plan together."



I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I did my research and found out there is a test that is important in deciding if you need chemotherapy. When I asked my doctor about it, he said he didn’t think I could afford it. I told him that was my decision, that I needed to know the options, and we had to talk about them.





You learn more as you go through the illness journey.

The moment you’re told you have a serious illness, you enter a new world—one in which you don’t speak the language or know the landscape. It’s hard to ask the right questions or make shared decisions at that time, but if you have a doctor you can trust, gather reliable information, and find support, you will become a better self advocate and a true partner in your treatment and care.


Over time, you’ll learn more about yourself and what matters most to you during this journey. You’ll get better at asking questions and balancing the benefits and risks of your treatment options. Your relationship with your health care team should become more open and honest, as time helps you establish mutual trust. 

These are all important factors in making shared decisions. The knowledge and experience you gain on your journey may not make it easier to live with serious illness, but it will help you advocate for yourself and improve the quality of your life.


Season 5 | Episode 3

Centering Primary Care with Humility, Respect and Compassion

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Educational resources for those who want to develop their skills in advocacy and promote patient-centered care.

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