Shared decision making (SDM) is a collaborative process that allows patients and their providers to make health care decisions together. It takes into account the best clinical evidence available, as well as the patient’s values and preferences.
Shared decision making is not a goal. The goal is better health decisions to achieve outcomes that matter most to the patient. And shared decision making is a way to reach that goal.
A proven process to incorporate the patient’s voice in health care decisions, shared decision making is the pinnacle of patient-centered care.
Shared decision making brings at least two experts to the table, the patient and the provider, although family members and other members of the care team may be involved. The provider is an expert in the clinical evidence. Patients are experts in their experiences and what matters most to them.
Shared decision making is appropriate for any health decision where there is more than one medically reasonable option. And evidence shows that shared decision making benefits all patients, regardless of age or education.
Decision aids can be used to facilitate a shared-decision-making conversation between the patient and provider. These tools can help patients understand the clinical evidence and help them identify their preferences. Decision aids do not advise people or advocate for one option over another. Instead, they prepare patients to make informed, values-based decisions with their provider.
Shared decision making honors both experts’ knowledge. And through this process of informing and involving the patient, high-quality decisions that align with patient preferences are achievable.