Shared Decision-making in Different Types of Decisions in Medical Specialist Consultations

J Gen Intern Med. 2022 Sep;37(12):2966-2972. doi: 10.1007/s11606-021-07221-6. Epub 2022 Jan 17.


Backgrounds: Research on shared decision-making (SDM) has mainly focused on decisions about treatment (e.g., medication or surgical procedures). Little is known about the decision-making process for the numerous other decisions in consultations.

Objectives: We assessed to what extent patients are actively involved in different decision types in medical specialist consultations and to what extent this was affected by medical specialist, patient, and consultation characteristics.

Design: Analysis of video-recorded encounters between medical specialists and patients at a large teaching hospital in the Netherlands.

Participants: Forty-one medical specialists (28 male) from 18 specialties, and 781 patients.

Main measure: Two independent raters classified decisions in the consultations in decision type (main or other) and decision category (diagnostic tests, treatment, follow-up, or other advice) and assessed the decision-making behavior for each decision using the Observing Patient Involvement (OPTION)5 instrument, ranging from 0 (no SDM) to 100 (optimal SDM). Scheduled and realized consultation duration were recorded.

Key result: In the 727 consultations, the mean (SD) OPTION5 score for the main decision was higher (16.8 (17.1)) than that for the other decisions (5.4 (9.0), p < 0.001). The main decision OPTION5 scores for treatment decisions (n = 535, 19.2 (17.3)) were higher than those for decisions about diagnostic tests (n = 108, 14.6 (16.8)) or follow-up (n = 84, 3.8 (8.1), p < 0.001). This difference remained significant in multilevel analyses. Longer consultation duration was the only other factor significantly associated with higher OPTION5 scores (p < 0.001).

Conclusion: Most of the limited patient involvement was observed in main decisions (versus others) and in treatment decisions (versus diagnostic, follow-up, and advice). SDM was associated with longer consultations. Physicians' SDM training should help clinicians to tailor promotion of patient involvement in different types of decisions. Physicians and policy makers should allow sufficient consultation time to support the application of SDM in clinical practice.

Keywords: consultation time; decision type; patient involvement; shared decision-making.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making
  • Decision Making, Shared*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicine*
  • Netherlands
  • Patient Participation
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Referral and Consultation