Although everyone might not want an active role in their care and treatment, most surveys suggest that a majority do (Flynn et al 2006). The important principle behind shared decision-making is that the doctor should not make assumptions about the level of involvement a person wants to have without checking with him or her first.
Shared decision-making involves the clinicians and patients to work together to make decisions about care and treatment based on both clinical evidence and the patient’s informed preferences. This is typically important because even though the doctor is trained to manage the condition the patient can bring in important resources based on their personal experience with the illness and their preferences.
In most of the clinical situations more than one course of action is possible for situations ranging from major treatment decisions to decisions about tests, medication and lifestyle. When patients take an informed decision by using reliable sources they improve their knowledge of the options; feel more informed and clearer about what matters most to them; have more accurate expectations of the possible benefits and harms associated with their options; and adhere to the treatment plan.
How can you as an individual take steps towards shared decision making? It can be done by the following stages:
For effective shared decision-making particular attitudes, skills, techniques and tools are required. The consulting doctor should have a curious and supportive consulting style, who welcomes questions and feedback from the patients. Information (from leaflets or online sources) can supplement the information given by the doctor and help the patient explore other options and their outcomes.
It is only through shared decision-making that we can achieve and respond to a fully accurate picture of what patients want. Mulley and colleagues, writing for The King’s Fund in 2012, termed this inability of the health care system fully to understand and respond to patients’ preferences ‘the silent misdiagnosis’ (Mulley et al 2012). Shared decision-making leads to better adherence to treatment and medication (Nunes et al 2009).
On making an informed decision it has been found that one is less likely to choose major surgery for a range of conditions or tests that are often deemed unnecessary (Hawker et al 2001; Kennedy et al 2002; O’Connor and Stacey 2005; Stacey et al 2011).
I hope it is pretty clear now that an Informed Decision about the treatment you are about to undergo or are undergoing is extremely important and the best way to achieve it is through exploring your treatment options from reliable sources and making a shared decision about the treatment.
Next on the series “Supported Self Management System”
*Reference “People in control of their own health and care”