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New initiative to better align treatment with patient goals

Partnership between Peterson Center on Healthcare and Northwestern University seeks to improve patient well-being
Photo of David Cella, the Chair of the Department of Medical Social Sciences

The Peterson Center on Healthcare is launching a new partnership with Northwestern University to empower patients by better aligning treatment decisions with patient goals. A $2.25 million grant from the Center to Northwestern will integrate the collection of patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) with a shared decision-making (SDM) tool to facilitate more effective, transparent and informed decision-making by patients, families and care teams. 

The initiative will be implemented in clinical programs across Northwestern Medicine in partnership with Northwestern University and will focus on people diagnosed with advanced cancer and chronic kidney disease. Patients will provide periodic assessments of their disease symptoms such as fatigue, pain and emotional well-being, so that their doctors and other clinicians can collaborate with them to integrate these measures into a shared plan for a course of treatment. 

“Quality health care begins with understanding what patients want and need,” said Dr. Jay Want, executive director of the Peterson Center on Healthcare. “This grant will help ensure that patients, in consultation with their doctors and their families, are well-informed and empowered as they consider how their treatment preferences could impact their quality of life.”    

“We are delighted to partner with the Peterson Center on Healthcare to advance a patient-centered approach to treatment planning and delivery,” said David Cella, principal investigator for the Northwestern grant. “Truly excellent health care requires understanding not only the illness in the person but the person with the illness.”

Cella is the Ralph Seal Paffenbarger Professor, chair of medical social sciences and director of the Center for Patient-Centered Outcomes within the Institute for Public Health and Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Over the three-year grant period, Northwestern will develop electronic patient- and clinician-facing dashboards to support SDM, displaying data such as care plans, PROMs and overall patient progress. In 2020, researchers will track the impact of the SDM model on patient satisfaction and clinical outcomes in addition to evaluating system-level implementation. Ultimately, learning from this work will be packaged into toolkits and training materials for broad dissemination.

“Patient-centered approaches have enormous potential to improve the quality and effectiveness of health care,” said Dr. Eric G. Neilson, vice president for medical affairs and Lewis Landsberg Dean of Medicine at Feinberg. “This exciting partnership has the potential to generate a robust foundation of evidence to support the inclusion of patients at the core of medical decision-making.”

The grant reflects the Center’s interest in aligning care delivery with patient goals. Current measures of quality, which are often focused on process, can frequently fail to measure how patients are functioning physically, emotionally and in activities of their daily life. Integrating PROMs into an SDM process helps ensure outcomes that matter most to patients will continually guide the care that is delivered, which can also reduce unnecessary treatment.

For more information about the Peterson Center on Healthcare, visit