Empowering patients through shared decision making

Pioneering physician, author, and researcher Tom Ferguson (1943-2006) stated that “whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own health. We don't need doctors or health systems to rule our bodies.”

The core of patient-centered healthcare is to engage the patient in decisions about their own care and treatment.

Every patient is unique in their own views, values, preferences, and life circumstances. This has a strong bearing on the choices they make when it comes to choosing an appropriate treatment for their condition. So it is not just a question of clinical effectiveness, but of balancing the potential benefits and harms of different available options to find what is most appropriate for the individual.1

Shared decision making (SDM) has been defined as “an approach where clinicians and patients share the best available evidence when faced with the task of making decisions, and where patients are supported to consider options, to achieve informed preferences”.2 It can also be defined as a process in which patients are involved as active partners with the clinician in clarifying acceptable medical options and choosing a preferred course of care and treatment.3 This would also take into account the patient’s needs, desires and lifestyle.

Every human being has a tendency to protect and preserve their wellbeing. The core of SDM is to make patients aware of their responsibility towards their own wellbeing. Therefore, an individual’s self-determination is a desirable goal of SDM, and clinicians need to support patients to achieve this goal, wherever feasible.2

SDM is not just about sharing information, but also honoring the patient’s preferences, which are influenced by psychological, social and emotional factors.
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