Communication & Medicine. An Interdisciplinary Journal of Healthcare, Ethics and Society. 2017, 14 (3), 217-228, DOI: 10.1558/cam.32815
Objective: To understand the variability and nature of shared decision making (SDM) regarding a uniform type of serious medical decision, and to make normative judgments about how these conversations might be improved.
Methods: This was a mixed-methods sub-analysis of the Improving Patient Outcomes with Respect and Trust (IMPORT) Study. We used the Braddock framework to identify and describe seven elements of SDM in audio-recorded encounters regarding initiation of hydroxyurea, and used data from medical records and patient questionnaires to understand whether and how these tasks were achieved.
Results: Physicians covered a spectrum of SDM behaviors: all dialogues contained discussion regarding the clinical issue and the pros and cons of treatment; the patient’s understanding and role were not explicitly assessed or stated in any encounter. Yet no patient agreed to start hydroxyurea who did not already prefer it. There was no uniform approach to how physicians presented risk; many concerns expressed by patients in a pre-visit questionnaire were not discussed.
Conclusion: In this analysis, patients seemed to understand their role in the decision-making process, suggesting that a patient’s role may not always need to be explicitly stated. However, shared decision making might be improved with more routine assessment of patient understanding and concerns. Standardized decision aids might help fully inform patients of risks and benefits.