New Site Helps Patients Make Complex Medical Choices

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SAN FRANCISCO—A new patient-friendly online resource called PREPARE (www.prepareforyourcare.org) has been developed to help people make complex medical decisions. The website was developed by researchers from the San Francisco VA Medical Center, UCSF, and NCIRE—The Veterans Health Research Institute.

The PREPARE website incorporates content identified in new research to address key patient- and surrogate-identified aspects of preparing for advance care planning and decision making. The site provides concrete examples through videos and other mechanisms on how to identify what is most important in life, how to communicate that with family and friends and doctors, and how to make informed medical decisions.

The resource is being launched by researchers who recently published a study on advance care planning in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management (Nov. 27, 2012). The paper, entitled Advance Care Planning Beyond Advance Directives: Perspectives from Patients and Surrogates, identified gaps in planning for decisions about serious illness among a culturally diverse group of patients and surrogate decision makers, or individuals who have made medical decisions for others.

“There are few resources which can adequately prepare patients and their families to face serious illness or a medical crisis—situations which often involve complex decisions over time," said lead study author Rebecca Sudore, MD, SFVAMC geriatrician and palliative medicine physician and associate professor medicine at the UCSF School of Medicine.

“Advance directives are important, but they are just one piece of the puzzle," she said. “We wanted to develop a value-driven, easy-to-use tool to prepare people to make medical decisions that reflect their values and needs while preparing them to effectively communicate these wishes with others."

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