Objective: We completed a systematic review of information reported as included in decision aids (DAs) for adult patients, to determine if it is complete, balanced and accurate.
Search strategy: DAs were identified using the Cochrane Database of DAs and searches of four electronic databases using the terms: 'decision aid'; shared decision making' and 'patients'; 'multimedia or leaflets or pamphlets or videos and patients and decision making'. Additionally, publications reporting DA development and actual DAs that were reported as publicly available on the Internet were consulted. Publications were included up to May 2006.
Data extraction: Data were extracted on the following variables: external groups consulted in development of the DA, type of study used, categories of information, inclusion of probabilities, use of citation lists and inclusion of patient experiences.
Main results: 68 treatment DAs and 30 screening DAs were identified. 17% of treatment DAs and 47% of screening DAs did not report any external consultation and, of those that did, DA producers tended to rely more heavily on medical experts than on patients' guidance. Content evaluations showed that (i) treatment DAs frequently omit describing the procedure(s) involved in treatment options and (ii) screening DAs frequently focus on false positives but not false negatives. About 1/2 treatment DAs reported probabilities with a greater emphasis on potential benefits than harms. Similarly, screening DAs were more likely to provide false-positive than false-negative rates.
Conclusions: The review led us to be concerned about completeness, balance and accuracy of information included in DAs.