Although support among policy makers and academics for the wide scale adoption of shared decision making (SDM) is growing, actual implementation is slow, and faces many challenges. Extensive systemic barriers exist that prevent physicians from being able to champion SDM and lead practice change. In other areas of public health where implementation has been a challenge, community-based participatory research (CBPR) has effectively engaged resistant stakeholders to improve practice and the delivery of care. Might CBPR, defined broadly as research that engages participants in the conception, design, and implementation of relevant health programs, be a more effective way to engage physicians, patients, and managers in the implementation process? Consequently, we argue that adopting a participatory approach may help to overcome recognized barriers to progress in this area.