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Fam Pract. 2004 Aug;21(4):347-54.

Patient-based outcome results from a cluster randomized trial of shared decision making skill development and use of risk communication aids in general practice.

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Department of Primary Care, University of Wales Swansea, UK.



Shared decision-making (SDM) between professionals and patients is increasingly advocated from ethical principles. Some data are accruing about the effects of such approaches on health or other patient-based outcomes. These effects often vary substantially between studies.


Our aim was to evaluate the effects of training GPs in SDM, and the use of simple risk communication aids in general practice, on patient-based outcomes.


A cluster randomized trial with crossover was carried out with the participation of 20 recently qualified GPs in urban and rural general practices in Gwent, South Wales. A total of 747 patients with known atrial fibrillation, prostatism, menorrhagia or menopausal symptoms were invited to a consultation to review their condition or treatments. After baseline, participating doctors were randomized to receive training in (i) SDM skills; or (ii) the use of simple risk communication aids, using simulated patients. The alternative training was then provided for the final study phase. Patients were randomly allocated to a consultation during baseline or intervention 1 (SDM or risk communication aids) or intervention 2 phases. A randomly selected half of the consultations took place in 'research clinics' to evaluate the effects of more time for consultations, compared with usual surgery time. Patient-based outcomes were assessed at exit from consultation and 1 month follow-up. These were: COMRADE instrument (principal measures; subscales of risk communication and confidence in decision), and a range of secondary measures (anxiety, patient enablement, intention to adhere to chosen treatment, satisfaction with decision, support in decision making and SF-12 health status measure). Multilevel modelling was carried out with outcome score as the dependent variable, and follow-up point (i.e. exit or 1 month later for each patient), patient and doctor levels of explanatory variables.


No statistically significant changes in patient-based outcomes due to the training interventions were found: COMRADE risk communication score increased 0.7 [95% confidence interval (CI) -0.92 to 2.32] after risk communication training and 0.9 (95% CI -0.89 to 2.35) after SDM training; and COMRADE satisfaction with communication score increased by 1.0 (95% CI -1.1 to 3.1) after risk communication, and decreased by 0.6 (95% CI 2.7 to -1.5) after SDM training. Patients' confidence in the decision (2.1 increase, 95% CI 0.7-3.5, P < 0.01) and expectation to adhere to chosen treatments (0.7 increase, 95% CI 0.04-1.36, P < 0.05) were significantly greater among patients seen in the research clinics (when more time was available) compared with usual surgery time. Most outcomes deteriorated between exit and 1 month later. There was no interaction between intervention effects.


Patients can be more involved in treatment decisions, and risks and benefits of treatment options can be explained in more detail, without adversely affecting patient-based outcomes. SDM and risk communication may be advocated from values and ethical principles even without evidence of health gain or improvement in patient-based outcomes, but the resources required to enhance these professional skills must also be taken into consideration. These data also indicate the benefits of extra consultation time.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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