Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 614–619 | Cite as

What are the Essential Elements to Enable Patient Participation in Medical Decision Making?

Original Article

Abstract

BACKGROUND

Patient participation in shared decision making (SDM) results in increased patient knowledge, adherence, and improved outcomes. Despite the benefits of the SDM model, many patients do not attain the level of participation they desire.

OBJECTIVE

To gain a more complete understanding of the essential elements, or the prerequisites, critical to active patient participation in medical decision making from the patient’s perspective.

DESIGN

Qualitative study.

SETTING

Individual, in-depth patient interviews were conducted until thematic saturation was reached. Two analysts independently read the transcripts and jointly developed a list of codes.

PATIENTS

Twenty-six consecutive subjects drawn from community dwelling subjects undergoing bone density measurements.

MEASUREMENTS

Respondents’ experiences and beliefs related to patient participation in SDM.

RESULTS

Five elements were repeatedly described by respondents as being essential to enable patient participation in medical decision making: (1) patient knowledge, (2) explicit encouragement of patient participation by physicians, (3) appreciation of the patient’s responsibility/rights to play an active role in decision making, (4) awareness of choice, and (5) time.

LIMITATIONS

The generalizability of the results is limited by the homogeneity of the study sample.

CONCLUSIONS

Our findings have important clinical implications and suggest that several needs must be met before patients can become active participants in decisions related to their health care. These needs include ensuring that patients (1) appreciate that there is uncertainty in medicine and “buy in” to the importance of active patient participation in decisions related to their health care, (2) understand the trade-offs related to available options, and (3) have the opportunity to discuss these options with their physician to arrive at a decision concordant with their values.

KEY WORDS

patient participation medical decision making shared decision making health care 

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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.VA Connecticut Healthcare SystemWest HavenUSA
  2. 2.Yale University School of MedicineNew HavenUSA
  3. 3.New England Research InstitutesWatertownUSA

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