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Shared decision making: what do clinicians need to know and why should they bother?


To the Editor: The article by Hoffman and colleagues1 outlines the importance of fully involving people in decisions about their health care. There is an ethical imperative to ensure that both patients and the community obtain the best value possible from the resources that are used to provide health care. A low-technology intervention that can help meet the expectations for better value care should be warmly embraced. We now need to find practical ways to increase the use of shared decision making in routine practice.

As Hoffman et al note, this will require concerted effort across the system. Health professionals need the skills required to use shared decision-making approaches. Professionals and patients need high-quality decision aids that can help identify patient preferences where there are multiple options for treatment. And there is clearly a need for research that measures the uptake and effects of shared decision making in specific clinical areas.

In October 2014, the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care sponsored visits by two international experts in shared decision making, to explore what we can learn from overseas experience in this area. Professors Richard Thomson (Newcastle University, United Kingdom) and Dawn Stacey (University of Ottawa, Canada) led workshops that aimed to identify cost-effective ways of ensuring that high-quality…