Informed Decision Making

Being an educated consumer will improve your overall healthcare experience.  There are many resources available to assist you in making good decisions and to help you stay informed. Included in this section are resources you may find helpful as you research healthcare issues and seek additional information.

Decision Making:

Foundation for Informed Medical Decision-Making: This site, endorsed by the Society of General Internal Medicine, offers information and tips on how patients can become more actively involved in the medical decision-making process and get the care that is right for them.

Researching on the Web:

Medical Library Association: The Medical Library Association has compiled a guide to help individuals sort through the myriad offerings on the web. Included is an M.L.A. “Top 10” most useful consumer health websites.

Researching Physicians and Hospitals:

State boards of medicine: State medical boards can provide information regarding a doctor’s licensure, training, and history of disciplinary action.

To locate the state board, the American Medical Association provides a listing.

The American Board of Medical Specialties: The A.B.M.S. has a doctor-finder function that will pull up a physician’s board certification.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality : The A.H.R.Q. has compiled healthcare “report cards” that provide comparative information on the quality of health plans, hospitals, medical groups, individual physicians, nursing homes and other providers of care.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services, Hospital Compare: This site provides information from participating hospitals on how well those hospitals care for patients with certain medical conditions or surgical procedures. Also included are the results from patient surveys on quality of care during hospital stays.

Researching a Disease, Condition or Procedure:

National professional medical societies: Below is a sampling of some of the larger national societies. Many societies have sites specifically designed for patients.

Medline Plus: Supported by both the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, Medline Plus offers patients an array of information on health topics, drugs and current news. In addition, there are interactive tutorials, surgery videos, health information for older adults, and links to clinical trials and health information for older adults.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: The C.D.C. is an excellent patient resource for communicable diseases and preventive and public health.

The American College of Physicians Foundation: In conjunction with the American College of Physicians, the ACP Foundation ( offers succinct and clear health information for patients.

For cancer patients: There are three websites that can serve as excellent starting points:

My HealtheVet: Veterans, their advocates, and employees of the Veterans Health Administration have access to extensive quality information and patient education resources through this site (, from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Be Informed: Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before You Have Surgery

A list and in-depth discussion

FDA Guide to Choosing Medical Treatments

Designed to help consumers avoid fraud and deception when choosing medical treatment. Use publication number (Reprint 95-1223) when ordering.

Food and Drug Administration
Office of Consumer Inquiries: HFE-88
5600 Fishers Lane
Rockville, MD 20857

Taking Part in Clinical Trials: What Cancer Patients Need to Know

This booklet by the National Cancer Institute describes how clinical trials work, and their possible benefits and drawbacks. 
Cancer Information Service:
1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237)
9:00 a.m.-4:30p.m. EST
Also available on the Clinical Trials website.

When You Need an Operation

This brochure by the American College of Surgeons covers how to assess a surgeon's qualifications, whether to seek a second opinion, and informed consent and cost issues. It and 12 other informational brochures are available free from:

The American College of Surgeons
Office of Public Information
633 N. Saint Clair St.
Chicago IL 60611
(312) 202-5391

Ask Me 3

Partnership for Clear Health Communications

Questions are the Answer

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

Questions Patients Need to Ask: Getting Better Healthcare

Essential Information Every Patient Needs to Know
Edited by David J. Shulkin, M.D.

Speak Up

Joint Commission

Translating Healthcare Materials

Missouri Hospital Association


Healthnet: Connecticut Consumer Health Information Network