Objective: This study investigates general practitioners' (GPs) and patients' attitudes to shared decision making, and how these attitudes affect patient satisfaction.
Background: Sharing of information and decisions in the consultation is largely accepted as the ideal in general practice. Studies show that most patients prefer to be involved in decision making and shared decision making is associated with patient satisfaction, although preferences vary. Still we know little about how the interaction of GP and patients' attitudes affects patient satisfaction. One such study was conducted in the USA, but comparative studies are lacking.
Design: Questionnaire survey distributed through GPs.
Setting and participants: The results are based on the combined questionnaires of 41 GPs and 829 of their patients in the urban municipality of Bergen in the western part of Norway. Main variables studied The data were collected using a nine-item survey instrument constructed to measure attitudes towards patient involvement in medical consultations. The patients were also asked to rate their satisfaction with their GP.
Results and conclusions: The patients had a strong preference for shared decision making. The GPs also generally preferred shared decision making, but to a lesser degree than the patients, which is the opposite of the findings of the US study. There was a positive effect of the GP's attitude towards shared decision making on patient satisfaction, but no significant effect of congruence of attitudes between patient and GP on patient satisfaction. The suggested explanation is that GPs that are positive to sharing decisions are more responsive to patients' needs and therefore satisfy patients even when the patient's attitude differs from the GPs' attitude. Hence, although some patients do prefer a passive role, it is important to promote positive attitudes towards patient involvement in medical consultations.