Informed Patient Decisions

Practitioners have a responsibility to ensure their patients understand the treatment, referrals and procedures that are being recommended/given to them. Patients need to be able to make informed decisions about their health. Information can be explained verbally but practitioners should ensure they use suitable language by minimising complicated terms, and the amount of information provided and by using diagrams where appropriate.

When delivering information to a patient, the following must be considered1:

  • the patient’s physical, visual and cognitive capacities that may affect their ability to understand the information, make decisions or provide consent.
  • the most appropriate way to communicate potentially sensitive information (e.g. about sexually transmitted infections, blood-borne viruses and pregnancy results).
  • the patient’s cultural and linguistic background (e.g. you may need to use an interpreter to check that the patient understands everything that you have told them).
  • the patient’s family members who are involved in their care (with consent of the patient where the patient has capacity).
  • the patient’s level of health literacy and therefore their ability to understand the information.
  • managing the amount of information you give to avoid overwhelming them.

Reference: Criterion C1.3 – Informed patient decisions.

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1The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. Standards for general practices. 5th edn. East Melbourne, Vic: RACGP, 2019. Standards 5th edition [online]. Available at: https://www.racgp.org.au/5thedition/Standards-for-general-practice-5th-edition.pdf. [Accessed July 2020]

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