Atrial fibrillation (AF) is an important risk factor for stroke. Although anticoagulation is effective in mitigating this risk, many high-risk patients are not anticoagulated in routine practice. Furthermore, as many as 50% of those who are prescribed an anticoagulant stop treatment within a year. This under treatment may be due, in part, to difficulty in navigating difficult decisions about initiating potentially lifelong therapy with significant costs, potential risks, and impact on daily life. To address these challenges, the most recent American guidelines issued a class I recommendation to use shared decision-making (SDM) to individualize patients’ antithrombotic care. The call by the major cardiovascular organizations for SDM is in an effort to improve quality of care by promoting decisions that reflect what is best for an individual patient based on their stroke and bleeding risks, as well as their comorbid conditions and socio-personal context. SDM is readily applicable to current cardiovascular practice, but ongoing work will be needed to determine whether brief, evidence-based, and patient-oriented tools are able to support thoughtful, patient-centered decision-making and, ultimately, improve the rates of appropriate treatment initiation and adherence.
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