Shared Decision Making: Partnering with Your Healthcare Provider
By: Nurse Kim
Shared decision making is a process in which clinicians and patients work together to make decisions about necessary tests, treatments, and care plans. These decisions are based on clinical evidence that balances risks and expected treatment results, while keeping patient preferences and values top of mind. It involves trust, communication, and an exchange of knowledge between you and your healthcare provider.
Your healthcare provider knows the treatment landscape best, so he or she can share clinical results and safety information—and you know yourself best, so you can share information about your lifestyle, goals, and treatment preferences. By sharing this knowledge with each other, you and your healthcare provider can work towards achieving your best health.
Shared decision making has been proven to work because both the patient and healthcare provider are being hands-on in the patient’s care.1 By working together, patients and their healthcare providers can work towards achieving the patient’s best possible health.
How shared decision making works
There are certain responsibilities that healthcare providers and patients need to fulfill to make shared decisions. Some of these responsibilities are for both of you, others are for just your healthcare provider, and others are the patient’s responsibility.
Shared responsibilities between healthcare providers and patients1
Prepare before visits, so everyone is aware of the patient’s overall health and MS. Reading over the patient’s file before appointments can give the healthcare provider a refresher of the patient’s status. Speaking up about symptoms and being prepared to ask questions can help patients make the most of their time with their healthcare provider.
Be proactive and thorough when considering different treatment options. Patients and healthcare providers should do their due diligence when it comes to finding a treatment. This includes doing research and understanding risks and benefits of the treatment options under consideration.
Have continued dialogue with each other during and between visits. If the patient is experiencing symptoms, or the healthcare provider notices something that the patient needs to know, for example, a new side effect of a medication, they should make sure to communicate those things to each other.
Healthcare provider responsibilities
Encourage the patient to be involved in the decision-making process. Some patients feel that it’s solely the healthcare provider’s responsibility to make decisions, and some don’t know how to get involved. By bringing this up from the start, healthcare providers can help patients better understand their role.
Provide information to the patient, so he or she can be more informed about the condition and treatment options. Healthcare providers need to provide patients with all the details about MS and about the treatments being considered. They can give patients informational resources to take home and read on their own, or they can share that information themselves during the visit—or both.
Reinforce the idea that the patient is an equal partner in the decision-making process. By keeping patients engaged during conversations, and asking them for their input, healthcare providers are showing them how important they are when it comes to making decisions involving their health.
Inform their healthcare provider of their symptoms, lifestyle, goals, and treatment preferences and experiences. Patients may benefit from using a Symptom Tracker to keep a record of their symptoms, or a Doctor Discussion Guide to start a conversation.
Be open-minded about exploring different treatment options. The patient may have a specific treatment in mind, but his or her healthcare provider may have a different recommendation. It’s important for patients to listen to the reasons behind the healthcare provider's recommendation.
Trust in their healthcare provider’s knowledge and feel empowered to add their own perspectives. Healthcare providers have a strong medical background, and patients should be confident about that, but speaking up when a patient has a different opinion from his or her healthcare provider can help ensure that the patient and healthcare provider are aligned.
The benefits of shared decision making
Shared decision making does require a little work from both you and your healthcare provider. Here are some of the benefits:
Trying shared decision making
Your healthcare provider may have introduced this idea to you already. If that’s not the case and you’re ready to try shared decision making, ask your healthcare provider about it. There is also a Sanofi Genzyme Path2Care resource that has some tips on how to partner with your healthcare provider and strengthen your relationship.
Healthcare providers also have many different tools you can use to communicate and make decisions together. These tools can include research assistance, secure messaging between patients and healthcare providers, and educational resources.
Making treatment decisions can be tough, but by partnering with your healthcare provider, you can come to a conclusion together on which course of action may be the best for you. Have you practiced shared decision making with your healthcare team before? If you have any tips, share them in the comments section below.
- Shared decision making is a process in which clinicians and patients work together to make decisions.
- Both patients and healthcare providers have certain responsibilities in shared decision making.
- Doing your own research, secure messaging between patients and healthcare providers, and educational resources can help with shared decision making.
References: 1. Colligan E, Metzler A, Tiryaki E. Shared decision-making in multiple sclerosis. Mult Scler. 2017;23(2):185-190. 2. Bourdette DN, Hartung DM, Whitham RH. Practices of US health insurance companies concerning MS therapies interfere with shared decision-making and harm patients. Neurol Clin Pract. 2016;6(2):177-182. 3. Clanet MC, Wolinsky JS, Ashton RJ, Hartung H-P, Reingold SC. Risk evaluation and monitoring in multiple sclerosis therapeutics. Mult Scler. 2014;20(10):1306-1311. 4. Bernabeo E, Holmboe ES. Patients, providers, and systems need to acquire a specific set of competencies to achieve truly patient-centered care. Health Aff (Millwood). 2013;32(2):250-258.