What is Shared Decision Making?

Some health problems only have one right treatment choice. For example, a person with a ruptured appendix needs an operation. A patient with a bad infection caused by bacteria needs antibiotics.  But for many health problems, there is a decision to be made between two (or more) good treatment choices.  

When your doctor or nurse asks you for your opinion in choosing the best treatment for you, this is called shared decision making. For a patient with AFib, shared decision making might work something like this:

  • Your doctor or nurse explains to you details about your AFib.
  • They also explain all the treatment choices, including the benefits and risks of each choice, for a person just like you.
  • Then you have a chance to share what is important to YOU. This includes big things like your concern about being disabled by a stroke, or your fear of bleeding complications.  It can also include things like the inconvenience of regular blood tests, or worry about the cost of certain medicines.
  • Once you both feel sure that you understand each other, you and your doctor or nurse decide together what treatment makes the most sense for you. 

Decision Aids

For some health conditions, there are “infographics” or pictures that can show you very clearly the “up-side” and the “down-side” of 2 or more different treatment choices (one choice might be doing nothing) for a person just like you. Ask your doctor or nurse about whether a decision tool might be helpful for you. Some of these tools can be found on the internet. Others can be printed out.