Fostering Patient Choice Awareness and Presenting Treatment Options Neutrally: A Randomized Trial to Assess the Effect on Perceived Room for Involvement in Decision Making

Med Decis Making. 2022 Apr;42(3):375-386. doi: 10.1177/0272989X211056334. Epub 2021 Nov 2.


Purpose: Shared decision making calls for clinician communication strategies that aim to foster choice awareness and to present treatment options neutrally, such as by not showing a preference. Evidence for the effectiveness of these communication strategies to enhance patient involvement in treatment decision making is lacking. We tested the effects of 2 strategies in an online randomized video-vignettes experiment.

Methods: We developed disease-specific video vignettes for rheumatic disease, cancer, and kidney disease showcasing a physician presenting 2 treatment options. We tested the strategies in a 2 (choice awareness communication present/absent) by 2 (physician preference communication present/absent) randomized between-subjects design. We asked patients and disease-naïve participants to view 1 video vignette while imagining being the patient and to report perceived room for involvement (primary outcome), understanding of treatment information, treatment preference, satisfaction with the consultation, and trust in the physician (secondary outcomes). Differences across experimental conditions were assessed using 2-way analyses of variance.

Results: A total of 324 patients and 360 disease-naïve respondents participated (mean age, 52 ± 14.7 y, 54% female, 56% lower educated, mean health literacy, 12 ± 2.1 on a 3-15 scale). The results showed that choice awareness communication had a positive (Mpresent = 5.2 v. Mabsent = 5.0, P = 0.042, η2partial = 0.006) and physician preference communication had no (Mpresent = 5.0 v. Mabsent = 5.1, P = 0.144, η2partial = 0.003) significant effect on perceived room for involvement in decision making. Physician preference communication steered patients toward preferring that treatment option (Mpresent = 4.7 v. Mabsent = 5.3, P = 0.006, η2partial = 0.011). The strategies had no significant effect on understanding, satisfaction, or trust.

Conclusions: This is the first experimental evidence for a small effect of fostering choice awareness and no effect of physician preference on perceived room to participate in decision making. Physician preference steered patients toward preferring that option.

Keywords: communication; experiment; implicit persuasion; options; patient involvement; shared decision making.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Communication
  • Decision Making
  • Decision Making, Shared
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Participation
  • Patient Preference*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*