Background: Good decision making has been increasingly cited as a core component of good medical care, and shared decision making is one means of achieving high decision quality. If it is to be a standard, good measures and protocols are needed for assessing the quality of decisions. Consistency with patient goals and concerns is one defining characteristic of a good decision. A new method for evaluating decision quality for major surgical decisions was examined, and a methodology for collecting the needed data was developed.
Methods: For a national probability sample of fee-for-service Medicare beneficiaries who had a coronary artery bypass graft (CABG), a lumpectomy or a mastectomy for breast cancer, or surgery for prostate cancer during the last half of 2008, a mail-survey of selected patients was carried out about one year after the procedures. Patients' goals and concerns, knowledge, key aspects of interactions with clinicians, and feelings about the decisions were assessed. A decision dissonance score was created that measured the extent to which patient ratings of goals ran counter to the treatment received. The construct and predictive validity of the decision dissonance score was then assessed.
Results: When data were averaged across all four procedures, patients with more knowledge and those who reported more involvement reported significantly lower Decision Dissonance Scores. Patients with lower Decision Dissonance Scores also reported more confidence in their decisions and feeling more positively about how the treatment turned out, and they were more likely to say that they would make the same decision again.
Conclusions: Surveying discharged surgery patients is a feasible way to evaluate decision making, and Decision Dissonance appears to be a promising approach to validly measuring decision quality.