What Exactly Is Shared Decision-Making? A Qualitative Study of Shared Decision-Making in Lung Cancer Screening

  • Anne C MelzerEmail author
  • Sara E. Golden
  • Sarah S. Ono
  • Santanu Datta
  • Kristina Crothers
  • Christopher G. Slatore



Shared decision-making (SDM) is widely recommended and required by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid for patients considering lung cancer screening (LCS).


We examined clinicians’ communication practices and perceived barriers of SDM for LCS at three medical centers with established screening programs.


Multicenter qualitative study of clinicians participating in LCS.


We performed semi-structured interviews, which were transcribed and analyzed using directed content analysis, guided by a theoretical model of patient-clinician communication.


We interviewed 24 clinicians including LCS coordinators (2), pulmonologists (3), and primary care providers (17), 4 of whom worked for the LCS program, a thoracic surgeon, and a radiologist.


All clinicians agreed with the goal of SDM, to ensure the screening decision was congruent with the patient’s values. The depth and type of information presented by each clinician role varied considerably. LCS coordinators presented detailed information including numeric estimates of benefit and harm. Most PCPs explained the process more generally, focusing on logistics and the high rate of nodule detection. No clinician explicitly elicited values or communication preferences. Many PCPs tailored the conversation based on their implicit understanding of patients’ values and preferences, gained from past experiences. PCPs reported that time, lack of detailed personal knowledge of LCS, and patient preferences were barriers to SDM. Many clinicians perceived that a significant proportion of patients were not interested in specific percentages and preferred to receive a clinician recommendation.


Our results suggest that clinicians support the goal of SDM for LCS decisions but PCPs may not perform some of its elements. The lack of completion of some elements, such as PCPs’ lack of in-depth information exchange, may reflect perceived patient preferences for communication. As LCS is implemented, further research is needed to support a personalized, patient-centered approach to produce better outcomes.


lung cancer screening shared decision-making communication 


Funding Information

This project was funded by a grant from the American Cancer Society (RSG-15-155-01, Slatore (PI)). The study was supported by resources from the VA Portland Health Care System, Portland, OR, and the Minneapolis VA Health Care System, Minneapolis, MN.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

The study was IRB-approved at each site (VAPORHCS #3482; Minneapolis VA #4645-B; Duke #Pro00073394).

Conflict of Interest

The authors have no financial conflicts of interest to declare. ACM, KC, and CGS are medical directors of lung cancer screening programs at the institutions where they are employed but do not receive additional compensation for these roles.


The Department of Veterans Affairs did not have a role in the conduct of the study, in the collection, management, analysis, interpretation of data, or in the preparation of the manuscript. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of Veterans Affairs or the U.S. Government.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine (This is a U.S. government work and not under copyright protection in the U.S.; foreign copyright protection may apply) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anne C Melzer
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Sara E. Golden
    • 3
  • Sarah S. Ono
    • 3
    • 4
  • Santanu Datta
    • 5
  • Kristina Crothers
    • 6
    • 7
  • Christopher G. Slatore
    • 3
    • 8
    • 9
  1. 1.Center for Care Delivery and Outcomes ResearchMinneapolis VA Healthcare SystemMinneapolisUSA
  2. 2.Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care, Department of MedicineUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  3. 3.Center to Improve Veteran Involvement in CareVA Portland Health Care SystemPortlandUSA
  4. 4.Department of Family MedicineOregon Health & Science UniversityPortlandUSA
  5. 5.Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of MedicineDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  6. 6.Section of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep MedicineVA Puget Sound Health Care SystemSeattleUSA
  7. 7.Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, Department of MedicineUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  8. 8.Division of Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine, Department of MedicineOregon Health & Science UniversityPortlandUSA
  9. 9.Section of Pulmonary & Critical Care MedicineVA Portland Health Care SystemPortlandUSA

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