Background: Decision aids (DAs) have been developed to help patients make treatment decisions. Research shows that they are effective in increasing patients' knowledge of treatment options without raising anxiety or conflict. However, they have not been routinely adopted for use in general practice in the UK and there are few reports addressing strategies to introduce them.
Objective: To examine patients' views about a variety of DAs for different conditions (heart disease, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and breast cancer) in order to inform a strategy to introduce them into general practice.
Setting and participants: General practice patients over the age of 18 years being or having been treated for one of the conditions above.
Methods: Qualitative study involving 12 focus groups with 77 patients evaluating decision aids relevant to their conditions. A semi-structured interview guide was used to generate discussions about the applicability of the DAs in routine general practice.
Results: Patients welcomed DAs for their educational and informational content. Reactions to the DAs were influenced by patients' own personal desires for involvement. The main concerns were that the use of DAs would potentially shift the onus of decision making responsibility on to the patient and about the practical challenges to implementation.
Conclusions: Clinicians will need to make explicit to patients that DAs are an adjunct to routine care and not a replacement, and therefore do not represent a derogation of responsibility. DAs need to be used as an integral part of the communication and support process for patients who want them.