Re-thinking shared decision-making: context matters

Patient Educ Couns. 2013 May;91(2):176-9. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2013.01.006. Epub 2013 Feb 11.


Objective: Traditional perspectives on shared decision-making (SDM) focus attention on the point in a clinical encounter where discussion of a treatment decision begins. We argue that SDM is shaped not only by initiation of a treatment decision, but also by the entire clinical encounter, and, even more broadly, by the nature of the patient-provider relationship.

Method: The four habits approach to effective clinical communication, a validated and widely used framework for patient-provider communication, was used to understand how SDM is integrally tied to the entire clinical encounter, as well as to the broader patient-provider relationship.

Results: The Four Habits consists of four categories of behaviors: (1) invest in the beginning; (2) elicit the patient's perspective; (3) demonstrate empathy; and (4) invest in the end. We argue that the behaviors included in all four of these categories work together to create and maintain an environment conducive to SDM.

Conclusion: SDM cannot be understood in isolation, and future SDM research should reflect the influence that the broader communicative and relational contexts have on decisions.

Practice implications: SDM training might be more effective if training focused on the broader context of communication and relationships, such as those specified by the Four Habits framework.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Communication
  • Decision Making*
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Professional-Patient Relations*