Proponent or collaborative: Physician perspectives and approaches to disease modifying therapies in sickle cell disease

PLoS One. 2017 Jul 20;12(7):e0178413. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0178413. eCollection 2017.


Sickle cell disease (SCD) is an inherited blood disorder that primarily affects African-American and other ethnic minority populations. There are three available disease-modifying therapies for sickle cell disease: hydroxyurea (HU), bone marrow transplantation (BMT), and chronic blood transfusion (CBT). Since these treatments vary in their therapeutic intent, efficacy in preventing progression of the disease, short and long-term adverse effects, costs and patient burden, the decision-making process regarding these therapies is complicated for both the patient and healthcare provider. While previous research has focused on the patient perspective of treatment-related decision making, there is a paucity of research investigating the physician perspective of treatment-related decision making. We conducted a qualitative study with physicians who were experts in the field of SCD. Interviews focused on physician perceptions of patient decisional needs as well as physicians' approach to decision making regarding disease-modifying therapies in SCD. Thirty-six physician interviews were analyzed, with a focus on their perspectives regarding available treatment options and on how they approach decision making with patients. We identified two narrative approaches. The Collaborative approach (CA) was characterized by emphasizing the need to discuss all possible treatment options to ensure that the patient and/or family was equipped to make an informed decision. The Proponent approach (PA) was characterized by strongly advocating a pre-determined treatment plan and providing patients/families with information, with the objective of convincing them to accept the treatment. An interplay of patient-related and disease-related factors, decision type and physician-related factors, as well as institutional frameworks, influenced physician perspectives on treatment options and decision making regarding these therapies. These findings point to the potential value of developing systems to foster patient engagement as a way of facilitating shared decision making.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / drug therapy
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / therapy*
  • Antisickling Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Blood Transfusion / methods*
  • Bone Marrow Transplantation*
  • Child
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Hydroxyurea / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Patient Participation
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*


  • Antisickling Agents
  • Hydroxyurea

Grant support

This study was funded by the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.