More Physicians Should Be Able to Take Advantage of the Benefits of Shared Decision Making

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Making complex medical decisions for which there is more than one course of treatment can be overwhelming and challenging for patients and their families. For many patients, questions about their treatment options can include:

  • Is this procedure my only option? What are alternative types of treatment?
  • What are the possible outcomes and side effects of each option, including the option of doing nothing?
  • What is the estimated cost of the procedure and any related follow-up care or medication?

Shared decision making, a collaborative process between patients and their physicians, uses patient decision aids to help patients answer these important questions, better understand their treatment options, and decide which treatment option best aligns with their preferences and values. Patient decision aids can include fact sheets and questionnaires, interactive online tools, videos, and discussion guides for doctors to use in conversations with patients. The patient can use these aids before an office visit or the provider and patient can use the aids jointly during an appointment.

Although numerous studies show that using patient decision aids can provide a number of benefits—including patients feeling more comfortable with their care decisions, reduced use of invasive treatment options without detracting from health outcomes, and lower costs of care—physicians do not widely use shared decision making for preference-sensitive conditions.

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