When it comes to delivering truly patient-centered care…how are providers supposed to know when they have “arrived”? According to Michael Berry, MD, President of the Informed Medical Decisions Foundation, providers will know they have achieved the “pinnacle of patient-centered care” when they routinely engage their patients in shared decision-making (SDM).
In theory, shared decision-making (aka collaborative decision-making) is what is supposed to happen between patients and their doctors when faced with a difficult choice. Clinicians engaging in shared decision-making would provide patients with information pertaining to the need for the treatment, the available options, as well as the benefits and risks. But patient-centered clinicians would also do something else. They would attempt to work with patients to arrive at a decision they could both live with. A kind of “shared mind” that takes into consideration their clinical perspective as well as the patient’s perspective – their preferences, needs, and values (which ideally have been captured over the course of the patient-provider relationship).
The Problem Is That Most Physicians Don’t Really Engage Patients In Shared Decision Making
A 2003 study surveyed U.S. physicians (N=1,217) preferences and actual practices regarding shared decision-making. Table 1 presents a summary of findings from this study.
|Decision Making Style||
What Physicians Preferred
What Physicians Actually Do
|No patient involvement||
|Patient dominant decision-making||
While most physicians in the study may philosophically believe in and prefer shared decision-making…as this data indicates that is not what most physicians in the study reported actually doing. In fact, 56% of physicians reported that they actually engaged in decision-making that was physician-dominated (with some patient involvement) or totally physician-dominated decision-making behavior (absent any patient involvement).
The Barriers To Shared Decision Making?
The barriers to SDM include the usual suspects:
- Lack of time during the visit
- Not having access to the right decision support aids tools and training their use
- Physician attitudes about patient’s willingness to engage in shared decision-making
- Provider reliance upon a physician-directed (versus patient-centered) style of communicating with patients
The Take Away – Why Shared Decision Making Matters
- SDM is the right thing to do – the benefits associated with SDM include better outcomes, lower utilization and cost, lower malpractice risk and enhanced patient trust and satisfaction
- SDM is a great way to be engaging to patients – it is a way to get patients involved in their care in a meaningful way they can relate to.
- To be eligible to participate in Medicare’s Shared Savings Program, Accountable Care Organizations must implement processes to promote patient engagement, including shared decision-making.
As readers of Mind the Gap know, I am a proponent of the adoption of patient-centered communication by providers, beginning with primary care. Shared decision-making has rightly been identified as a leading indicator when it comes to assessing the “patient-centeredness’ of a physician practice. So before you go around telling everyone how patient-centered your provider teams are first do a reality check. Because if you aren’t regularly engaging your patients in shared decision making you are not there yet.
That’s my opinion…what’s your?
Heisler, M. et al. Physicians’ participatory decision-making and quality of diabetes care processes and outcomes: results from the triad study. Chronic Illness. 2009 Sep;5(3):165-76
Street, R. et al The importance of communication in collaborative decision making: facilitating shared mind and the management of uncertainty. Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice 17 (2011) 579–584.
Frosch, D., et al. An Effort To Spread Decision Aids In Five California Primary Care Practices Yielded Low Distribution, Highlighting Hurdles. Health Affairs. 32, no.2 (2013):311-320.