Promoting Shared Decision-Making in Healthcare
In recent years, new diagnostic tools and treatment options have become readily available. Similarly, users' access to healthcare-related information has grown exponentially. As a result, healthcare professionals are required to play the new role of "decision brokers", and patients are being asked to participate in decisions which affect their health. These factors are transforming the decision-making process in healthcare.
In clinical settings, shared decision-making is the process in which both patients and physicians participate in making medical decisions. True shared decision-making is based on the best available scientific data and highlights the risks and benefits of all available options, including the option of taking no action. Also, shared decision-making takes patients' values and preferences into account. These characteristics allow the shared decision-making model to meet public expectations, suiting situations where options and outcomes are uncertain, as well as positively impacting patients on an individual level.
Despite its benefits, the practice of shared decision-making is far from being a widely adopted practice. Research by France Légaré, Canada Research Chair in Shared Decision Making and Knowledge Translation, aims at 1. gaining a better understanding of the needs of professionals delivering primary health care and encourage professionals to practice shared decision-making; 2. developing the tools needed to apply this new professional technique; 3. developing effective strategies for introducing those tools; and 4. assessing the impact of the tools.
Dr. Légaré is also working on designing effective intervention systems for implementing shared decision-making in primary health care, particularly in cases involving antibiotic treatment for acute respiratory infections, the use of natural products to alleviate symptoms of menopause, the patient commitment to prenatal genetic screening, and housing decisions for the elderly.
Professor Légaré's program will be beneficial for the medical community and for patients alike. It will help support patients in the process of making health-related decisions, harmonize patients' expectations with common practices of Canada's healthcare professionals and, last but not least, improve patient health.