The main focus of the present paper is to describe 1) the healthcare system specific influences on patient participation in medical decision making and 2) the current state of research and implementation of shared decision making (SDM) after ten years of substantial advances in health policy and research in this field. WHAT ABOUT POLICY REGARDING SDM? The "Medical Patients Rights Act" is to standardise all the rights and responsibilities within the scope of medical treatment. This also comprises the right to informed decisions, comprehensive and comprehensible information for patients, and decisions based on the partnership of clinicians and patients. WHAT ABOUT TOOLS - DECISION SUPPORT FOR PATIENTS? SDM training programmes for healthcare professionals have been developed and partly implemented. Several decision support interventions - primarily with support from health insurance funds - have been developed and evaluated. WHAT ABOUT PROFESSIONAL INTEREST AND IMPLEMENTATION? Against the background of the German health policy's endorsement of patient participation, the German government and other public institutions are currently funding different research programmes in which shared decision making is playing a substantial role. The development and implementation of decision support tools for patients and professionals as well as the implementation of trainings for healthcare professionals require stronger efforts. WHAT DOES THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE? With the support of health policy and with the utilisation of scientific evidence, the transfer of shared decision making into practice is considered to be meaningful in the German healthcare system. The translation into routine care will remain an important task for the future.
2011. Published by Elsevier GmbH.