Personal Decision Guides

Personal Decision Guides (sometimes called Patient Decision Aids) are tools to help people be actively involved in shared decision making about their healthcare or other important topics. 

They include:

  • Information about a health topic or concern
  • Options for managing or treating the health concern
  • Benefits and risks of the options

The Guides help someone make a decision by asking:

  • What is important to you?
  • Do you have all the information you need to make an informed decision?
  • Do you understand all the information?
  • Do you have the support you need?
  • How sure you are about your decision?

Most Decision Guides use printed text only. For people who use picture symbols to communicate or for those who are not fully literate, text-only Guides might not be accessible. The Personal Decision Guides (PDG) developed for this website use text with symbols.

People who use symbol-based Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC) often use many symbols together to communicate a thought. Some people who have limited literacy, but do not use AAC, may find text with only a few symbols helpful. The use of fewer symbols paired with text is an example of Universal Design (UD).

There are two styles of Personal Decision Guides on this website:

  1. AAC Based (more symbols used)
  2. Universally Designed (less symbols used)

Here is an example of how the two styles look different:

AAC based

A sentence that says "Use this guide to talk with your doctor or support person to help you make a decision" includes icons visually describing certain words throughout the sentence.

Universally Designed

A sentence that says "Use this guide to talk with your doctor or support person to help you make a decision" includes two icons visually cuing certain ideas in the sentence.

Choose the style that works best for you.

For a general Personal Decision Guide that can be used for any health or social topic but uses mostly text, visit The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. To see a list of text-only Decision Guides on many health topics visit The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute Alphabetical List of Decision Aids by Health Topic.

Creating a Personal Decision Guide

For those interested in creating a Personal Decision Guide on a new health topic, we have created a template. 

Please note:
Information about the health concern and treatment options should be reviewed by a Medical professional for accuracy before use. OHSU, Community Vision, and WITH Foundation do not endorse any Personal Decision Guides created with our Template, unless posted to this website.

Based on survey results from providers who were evaluating our Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Guide, the following is a list of things to consider when creating a Personal Decision Guide:

  • Make sure symbols are culturally appropriate.
  • Use symbols that convey both literal and abstract content.
  • Test your PDA/PDG with a diverse audience of clients and providers.
  • Use plain language principles – simple vocabulary, checklists, bulleted items, short sentences.
  • Don’t use too many symbols, which can be as overwhelming as too many words.
  • Keep the document short and to the point. 

Personal Decision Guide Template 

References for the Personal Decision Guide Project

Informed Consent for Surgery & Sedation

Similar to the symbol-based Personal Decision Guide project, we created a medical consent form for someone who uses AAC symbols, or for someone with limited literacy who benefits from symbols. This form can be used to improve understanding of what to expect during surgery to help a person meaningfully participate in giving consent.

Informed Consent for Surgery & Sedation 

This project is in partnership with the AT Lab at Community Vision, funded by a grant from the WITH Foundation.