Massachusetts Medical Society: Improve Outcomes with Shared Decision Making

Improve Outcomes with Shared Decision Making

Your Practice

As accountable care delivery models, patient-centered medical home models, and other emerging models of care delivery increase in prevalence, there is a need for increased involvement of patients in the decision-making process.

Experts agree that patient engagement through shared decision making can improve health outcomes while also achieving cost savings.

Patient engagement through shared decision making involves patients taking an active role in improving and maintaining their health. Physicians can engage their patients by discussing with them their care preferences, needs, and values. As a result, the care paradigm becomes more patient centered, and allows patients to be active and engaged participants in their care. For example, diabetic patients might discuss various treatment options with their physician taking into consideration specific options that fit their lifestyle, their dietary needs, and their cultural background.

Many studies have shown that this method is beneficial from both an outcomes and cost savings perspective. Patients who are more engaged in their care tend to display improved preventive behaviors, such as having regular check-ups, screenings, and immunizations.

Additionally, chronically ill patients, whose health costs are often highest, are more likely to adhere to treatment plans when they are more engaged in making decisions about their care. Highly engaged patients also have a lower probability of having an emergency department visit, and tend to have lower rates of hospitalizations. In fact, a recent Health Affairs article found that less engaged patients have significantly higher health costs than those who are more engaged in their care.

The following tips will help you achieve shared decision making and patient engagement in your practice:

  • Speak with your staff and make sure that everyone is on board with the practices’ established patient engagement and shared decision-making framework. Educating your staff on the importance of this will help you work toward a shared goal of providing optimal patient care.
  • When seeing patients, lay out the options for care and explain the pros and cons of each option. Ask patients what their concerns are and discuss with them their preferences and/or any barriers that may exist.
  • Stop and ask patients simple follow-up questions, such as if they have any other health concerns. Evidence has shown this can greatly increase patient satisfaction and participation in care, as it leaves the patient feeling valued for their input.
  • Provide patients with information about alternatives and understand how, and to what degree, the patient prefers to be involved in decisions. Use education tools and information technology to your advantage. If you have a patient portal, this is a great way to engage patients and encourage active participation.

—By Leif Brierley
MMS Health Policy Analyst

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