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When we face tough medical decisions, we all want someone to help us talk through our options.

The Ottawa Personal Decision Guide can help. Provided by the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, the guide helps you make high-stakes decisions based on what’s important to you.

The institute also provides access to a wide range of guides for people with specific medical conditions.

Informed Medical Decisions

Groups that support a patient’s right to make informed decisions, including The Alliance, sometimes require that health providers use medical decision aids to help patients make choices about high-stakes medical procedures such as heart surgery or joint replacement.

Unfortunately, some doctors may be unaware of decision aids and where to find them. Other caregivers may lack time to use a decision aid or see decision-making assistance as falling outside their area of expertise.

That’s why you need to know that free, unbiased Ottawa Hospital Research Institute materials are available to everyone online. You can use these online resources on your own or work through them with a trusted friend or caregiver.

Ottawa Personal Decision Guide materials include:

  • A two-page interactive .pdf file available in English, Spanish, French, Japanese, German, Swedish and Dutch.
  • A “Family” version that allows two people to complete the guide.
  • A Facebook application called iShould to help you make and share decisions with your friends.

There’s also a video that demonstrates how two people might work together to use the guide to make an important decision.

The Ottawa Personal Decision Guide has been reviewed by experts and meets decision aid criteria set by the International Patient Decision Aid Standards Collaboration.

Making those Tough Decisions

The Ottawa Personal Decision Guide can help you:

  • Weigh pros and cons.
  • Check your knowledge level about benefits and risks.
  • Determine whether you have the support and advice you need.
  • Understand whether pressure is being applied to influence your choices.

Condition-specific guides take this process a step further by helping you consider issues directly related to a procedure or treatment.

Guides are available for a wide range of conditions, which can be as commonplace as acne or as complex as heart surgery.

To explore these resources, click on the condition title and then look for the “How to Obtain” heading, which should lead to a link marked “available here.” Most condition-specific guides are immediately available for public use, although a few have limited access.

Decisions Based on Your Needs

The goal for using these tools should always be making decisions that are based on your needs and your preferences. That’s important because there is often more than one option for treating your condition.

Depending on the situation, you might put the highest value on avoiding pain, for example, while your friend might be more concerned about avoiding certain types of narcotic medication.

Research shows that patients who use decision aids to address their medical situation are happier and more satisfied with their treatment decisions and the outcome. That means it’s worth taking time to use these valuable decision aids to figure out which approach is right for you.


Better Health Care Consumer


Members & Employers


Better Health Care Consumer


Members & Employers
Allan Wearing

Allan Wearing
Guest Blogger, Chief Insurance Services Officer at Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin

Al was the Chief Insurance Services Officer at Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin (GHC-SCW). He has the primary responsibility for the oversight of the insurance programs at GHC-SCW including marketing, sales, product development, pricing, underwriting, provider contracting, communication, advertising, public relations, government programs, and customer service.He oversees, manages and provides direction in the development and execution of insurance programs and initiatives in conjunction with the GHC-SCW strategic plan and goals. Al has seen incremental growth in membership of GHC-SCW since joining the organization in 2006 from 53,000 members to now over 75,000 members in 2018. Al has been involved in the Wisconsin health insurance industry for over forty years and has seen significant changes in the industry over the years.He had a long and rewarding career at Blue Cross & Blue Shield United of Wisconsin (BCBSWI) which spanned the decades of the 1970’s through 2006. During that time, he worked principally in a variety of management positions ranging from internal operations to more externally focused areas in various sales, sales management, and executive positions at BCBSWi until his departure in 2006. His tenure at BCBSWI allowed him to develop over the years in a variety of positions which allowed him to understand the importance of the industry in providing exceptional service to all employers and their employees. A lesson that has he has continued to embrace at GHC-SCW. Education and Associations: Al graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and attended graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Al is a fellow in the Life Management Institute. Al in the past has served on the boards of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation of Western Wisconsin and continues as an Ambassador, the Cooperative Network Board where he represented the health sector for cooperatives in Wisconsin and Minnesota, the Wisconsin Association of Health Underwriters (WAHU), including Past President, and the Madison West Kiwanis Club, including Past President. In addition, Al has previously been a member of the Fond du Lac Area Businesses on Health Board of Directors, as well as a member of the Fond du Lac Rotary Club. Al believes sincerely in the value of community involvement in civic, professional, and business associations and continues to look for opportunities to serve in the community.

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