Within the last two days, the Wall Street Journal had two stories focusing on shared decision-making in health care.
And Laura Landro wrote this piece with a more indepth look at the theory put into practice. Excerpt:
Preliminary data from the National Survey of Medical Decisions, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, showed that doctors are more likely to discuss the advantages of treatments while giving short shrift to the disadvantages. The study also found that doctors often offer their opinion but much less frequently ask the patient's own opinion.
"There are an increasing number of situations where there is not a clear-cut winner in terms of treatment, and patients don't get the information they should about side effects and things that could go wrong before making decisions," says Karen Sepucha, a scientist at the Health Decision Research Unit of Massachusetts General Hospital. "The result is a huge disconnect between what patients truly care about and what providers feel is most important for patients."
Though decision-aid programs cost money to deliver, they appear to save money in the long run. Studies show that when patients understand their choices and share in the decision-making process with their doctors, they tend to choose less-invasive and less-expensive treatments than they would have otherwise received. A number of states and policymakers in Washington are considering legislation that would provide funding to study the use of shared-decision-making programs and in some cases require such programs to be offered to patients as part of the informed-consent process.
A growing number of hospitals, medical groups and health plans are using decision aids offered by the Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making, which grew out of research at Dartmouth University, for conditions where there is no consensus as to the best course of treatment.
That same Foundation supports my work on the HealthNewsReview.org project.