Physicians need nearly a decade of training to understand complex patient data such as lab results and genomic data. But new research published today in AcademyHealth’s journal eGEMs’ highlights how this information can be delivered to patients in ways that they can understand and use.

As the inaugural papers in the new Better Decisions Together section, each one emphasizes the potential of patient-centered clinical decision support to address broad issues in the U.S. health care system regarding quality and safety while also achieving better outcomes and better patient and provider satisfaction,” said section editor Jessica Ancker, Ph.D., M.P.H, associate professor of health informatics in the department of healthcare policy & research at Weill Medical College of Cornell University.

The new ongoing section is supported by RTI’s Patient-Centered Clinical Decision Support Learning Network. With funding from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the Learning Network is building a community dedicated to developing and implementing solutions that leverage clinical decision support technology and patient-centered evidence to improve patients’ and providers’ care decisions. Clinical Decision Support, a process for enhancing health-related decisions and actions including software-based solutions, plays a critical role in making key patient-centered outcomes research findings accessible and actionable.

The section’s inaugural papers include:

This introductory commentary by Dr. Ancker provides context around the section’s inaugural papers and emphasizes that we should not underestimate patients’ needs for information or their interest in learning. She also notes the value of existing literature on patient-facing information that researchers in the section drew upon to develop early prototypes.

This article by members of the Patient-Centered Clinical Decision Support Learning Network outlines a framework, referred to as the Analytic Framework for Action (AFA), to organize thinking and activities around patient-centered clinical decision support (PCCDS). The article also discusses a wide array of activities the PCCDS Learning Network is engaging in to inform and connect stakeholders.

This article reveals the importance of user-centered design in patient portals to help patients better interpret lab tests and make informed decisions. Researchers from the VAs in Houston and Salt Lake City, the University of Texas Health Science Center, University of Utah, and Baylor College of Medicine found that simply providing information isn’t enough – even when based on research about patient information needs. They found that the design and navigability of patient portals must be thoughtfully addressed in order to form an adequate foundation for patients to make informed decisions.

Researchers from Geisinger found that creating helpful patient-facing tools actually may require providing more information, not less. Patient participants in the study recommended including additional information in genomic reports, often suggesting material that medical experts thought might constitute too much information. The researchers conclude that early, substantial and direct engagement of patients in the design and development of patient-centered clinical decision support tools makes a significant difference in their effectiveness.   

Better Decisions Together will continue to disseminate innovative methods and strategies that advance the science of patient-centered clinical decision support and accepts submissions on a rolling basis. For more information and to submit your work, visit

Lauren Adams

Lauren Adams, M.A.

Senior Director of Communications and Marketing - AcademyHealth

Lauren Adams, M.A., is senior director of communications and marketing at AcademyHealth, where she oversees th... Read Bio

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