NHS Direct is piloting three online decision aids designed to help patients make more informed choices about medical tests and treatments where there is no clinical evidence about which are better for them.

The online patient decision aids (OPDA), which are part of the first national web-based project in the UK of its kind, are intended to increase awareness of expected risks, benefits and outcomes of patients’ treatments.

The first phase of the pilot includes the development of an OPDA for patients with osteoarthritis of the knee and the transfer onto the internet of OPDAs for people with an enlarged prostate and localised prostate cancer.

The three decision aids will be trialled across eight NHS pilot sites over the next eight weeks and eligible patients will be given access to them via their specialist clinician.

The aids will allow patients to review all information, including the advantages and disadvantages of treatments, view video interviews with people who live with the condition, and then complete a short questionnaire about their treatment preference.

Mary Archer, chairman of urology informed decision making project, said: “The decision support programme is remarkable because it opens access to high quality peer approved information and support to help people faced with difficult decisions.

“Making the programme available online extends access to the decision support service considerably and will enable us to keep it up-to-date with the latest information.”

NHS Direct said that although the pilot will be developed as a stand-alone web service with support, the aim will be to develop a national multi-media NHS ‘wrap’ for OPDAs using NHS Direct’s existing online health and symptom checker.

During the pilot and subject to successful completion of phase one, further stages will include the online transfer of up to six more OPDAs.

The trial will then be evaluated by the University of Cardiff and NHS Direct to determine cost effectiveness, accessibility as well as impact of resources in relation to whether they are being used appropriately.

Ruth Rankine, director of strategy and planning for NHS Direct, said: “NHS Direct is committed to working with other NHS organisations to explore innovative approaches to healthcare, utilising our national reach and scale.

“Our national multi-media infrastructure and experience of developing patient focused web services puts us in a unique position to develop patient decision aids for the web and their successful implementation and sustainability in the NHS.”

Link: NHS Direct