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What Is Shared Decision Making?

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  • Written By: M. Walker
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2016
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2016
    Conjecture Corporation
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Shared decision making is a process through which patients and physicians work with each other to form an appropriate treatment plan. This style of treatment is designed to promote patient participation and arm patients with decision aids to help them stay informed and involved in their healthcare. The shared decision making model gained popularity in the 1970s, when healthcare began to grow more patient-focused.

One of the problems that occurs when patients are not actively involved in the decision process is that they remain uninformed. Patients who are not encouraged to ask questions about their treatment or conduct light research on their own are less likely to make efforts to understand the medical, psychological, or cultural implications of their treatments. Shared decision making attempts to correct this problem by giving patients the tools they need to learn about their health conditions and to ask relevant questions to stay informed.

This model also attempts to inform physicians and other healthcare professionals of different strategies for communicating effectively with patients. By training practitioners, the shared decision making plan provides more opportunities for a successful exchange of information with patients. Not only does it allow them to better explain procedures, health conditions, or medications, it also facilitates better understanding of a patient’s background and cultural traditions. One study found that physicians using this model were more likely to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of treatment plans with their patients rather than simply describing the different plans.

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Shared decision making has several notable benefits. The first is that it boosts patient satisfaction, which can have positive results for both patients and doctors. Patients experience less anxiety, boast faster rates of recovery, and are also less likely to need additional medications, appointments, or other resources. This means that doctors may increase the efficiency of their appointments and experience fewer lawsuits as a result. The higher patient satisfaction associated with the shared decision making model is also beneficial for healthcare economics as a whole because satisfied patients that need fewer resources will reduce spending.

Implementing this model occurs both inside and outside of a clinical setting. Inside a hospital or doctor’s office, the roles of the patients and doctors need to shift slightly for shared decision making to be effective. Doctors can involve their patients more and solicit additional questions, while patients can assert themselves and provide more information to their caregivers. Outside of the office, patients can use decision aids, such as pamphlets, lectures, or videos, to inform themselves about their health conditions.

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