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Shared Decision Making: Go for Gold

As the world watches the thirtieth Olympic games we ask, in healthcare as in sport, why not go for gold? When it comes to cost, quality and satisfaction, Shared Decision Making is the dominant performer in the healthcare field. Not unlike gymnast Gabby Douglas or swimmer Michael Phelps.

Just this week, a new study demonstrated that training physicians in Shared Decision Making can reduce unnecessary antibiotic use.

But what is it exactly about the Shared Decision Making process that leads to happier patients? Is it the development of a closer physician-patient relationship? The increased confidence patients feel knowing the facts about their condition? The sense of empowerment patients experience learning the benefits and risks of different treatment options? All of these benefits can contribute to why patients like Shared Decision Making. But what is critical to Shared Decision Making is that it helps people make decisions that are relevant to them – in the context of their own specific life circumstances – and that benefit shows clearly how for each individual person, choices are unique:   

One of our Health Coaches tells a great story that illustrates this point. A member called in wanting to learn more about shoulder surgery. Let’s call her Lisa. Lisa explained that she had gone to see her doctor a month earlier complaining of pain in her shoulder and he had suggested a few different care options including physical therapy and surgery. Lisa had been experiencing pain for a while, but was too busy chasing her two year old around the house to schedule a physical therapy appointment. Although she had read up on the side-effects and the risks of the surgery, Lisa felt that this “quick fix” was still the right option for her.

Our health coach understood but asked Lisa if she had arranged for someone to take care of her daughter for the two months she was in recovery after the procedure. Lisa had read about the recovery period several times, but it took a third party phrasing it in the context of her life for the reality to set in. She decided she would give PT a try first, especially since our Health Coach found one nearby that was kid-friendly.

In addition to improving patient satisfaction with their care and improving doctor-patient communication, studies have shown that in cases like Lisa’s, where individuals are active in making informed and personally-relevant decisions, they tend to choose less invasive procedures – which can dramatically affect costs and clinical outcomes on top of happier patients.

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