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. 2018 Jul 18;18(1):165.
doi: 10.1186/s12877-018-0853-9.

Supporting Shared Decision Making for Older People With Multiple Health and Social Care Needs: A Realist Synthesis

Free PMC article

Supporting Shared Decision Making for Older People With Multiple Health and Social Care Needs: A Realist Synthesis

Frances Bunn et al. BMC Geriatr. .
Free PMC article


Background: Health care systems are increasingly moving towards more integrated approaches. Shared decision making (SDM) is central to these models but may be complicated by the need to negotiate and communicate decisions between multiple providers, as well as patients and their family carers; particularly for older people with complex needs. The aim of this review was to provide a context relevant understanding of how interventions to facilitate SDM might work for older people with multiple health and care needs, and how they might be applied in integrated care models.

Methods: Iterative, stakeholder driven, realist synthesis following RAMESES publication standards. It involved: 1) scoping literature and stakeholder interviews (n = 13) to develop initial programme theory/ies, 2) systematic searches for evidence to test and develop the theories, and 3) validation of programme theory/ies with stakeholders (n = 11). We searched PubMed, The Cochrane Library, Scopus, Google, Google Scholar, and undertook lateral searches. All types of evidence were included.

Results: We included 88 papers; 29 focused on older people or people with complex needs. We identified four context-mechanism-outcome configurations that together provide an account of what needs to be in place for SDM to work for older people with complex needs. This includes: understanding and assessing patient and carer values and capacity to access and use care, organising systems to support and prioritise SDM, supporting and preparing patients and family carers to engage in SDM and a person-centred culture of which SDM is a part. Programmes likely to be successful in promoting SDM are those that allow older people to feel that they are respected and understood, and that engender confidence to engage in SDM.

Conclusions: To embed SDM in practice requires a radical shift from a biomedical focus to a more person-centred ethos. Service providers will need support to change their professional behaviour and to better organise and deliver services. Face to face interactions, permission and space to discuss options, and continuity of patient-professional relationships are key in supporting older people with complex needs to engage in SDM. Future research needs to focus on inter-professional approaches to SDM and how families and carers are involved.

Keywords: Multimorbidity; Older people; Person-centred care; Realist synthesis; Shared decision making.

Conflict of interest statement

Ethics approval and consent to participate

Ethical approval was obtained from the University of Hertfordshire Health and Human Sciences Ethics Committee with delegated authority (ECDA), reference number HSK/SF/UH/02387. Written informed consent was obtained from all participants.

Consent for publication


Competing interests

All authors have completed the ICMJE uniform disclosure form at and declare: all authors had financial support from National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) HS&DR for the submitted work, Rait is a member of the HTA Commissioning Board, HTA Methods Group and Panel, Goodman is an NIHR Senior Investigator. Goodman and Manthorpe are Trustees of the Order of St John Care Trust, Manthorpe is Chair of the NIHR Policy Research Programme Board, and Durand reports personal fees from EBSCO Health and ACCESS Community Health Network outside the submitted work. There are no other financial relationships with any organisations that might have an interest in the submitted work in the previous three years.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 1
Flow chart summarising study identification
Fig. 2
Fig. 2
Summary of programme theory: the figure depicts how the context is created as result of the resources, mechanisms and outcomes provided by CMOs 1–3

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