Healthcare choices can be complex and daunting, particularly for patients with chronic conditions with multiple treatment options. But a new free Website aims to simplify the process, offering a user-friendly online tool to help patients make complicated medical decisions.
The PREPARE Website — at www.prepareforyourcare.org — was developed by researchers from the San Francisco VA Medical Center, University of California-San Francisco, and The Veterans Health Research Institute. It incorporates information from the latest research to address key aspects of preparing for advance care planning and decision making.
The site provides concrete examples through videos, step-by-step guides, and other features on how to identify what is most important in life, how to communicate with family and friends and doctors, and make informed medical decisions.
The Website’s developers recently published a study on advance care planning in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management that identified gaps in planning for decisions about serious illness among patients and other 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 researcher Rebecca Sudore, M.D., a geriatrician, palliative medicine physician, and associate professor of 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."
The website's audio-visual features tailored to needy populations — including seniors and others with low health or computer literacy and/or visual or hearing impairment — and aims to incorporate “a patient-centered, comprehensive, and manageable approach,” Dr. Sudore said.
The PREPARE Website is written at a fifth-grade reading level, and includes voice-overs of all text, closed-captioning for the hearing impaired, and large fonts for the visually impaired. In preliminary tests of the Website involving 69 English- and Spanish-speaking seniors, users rated PREPARE a nine on a 10-point scale for ease of use, according to Dr. Sudore.
"We wanted to make the Website free and easy-to-use by everyone," she said. "We made sure to take advice given to us by patients and surrogates. The site doesn't merely ask people to do advance care planning, but actually shows people, through videos and a step-by-step process, how to actually have the conversation and make informed medical decisions."
The work was funded, in part, by the Department of Veterans Affairs.