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JMIR Med Inform. 2017 Oct 6;5(4):e36. doi: 10.2196/medinform.6405.

Computerized Decision Aids for Shared Decision Making in Serious Illness: Systematic Review.

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Health Data Science Lab, School of Public Health and Health Systems, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada.



Shared decision making (SDM) is important in achieving patient-centered care. SDM tools such as decision aids are intended to inform the patient. When used to assist in decision making between treatments, decision aids have been shown to reduce decisional conflict, increase ease of decision making, and increase modification of previous decisions.


The purpose of this systematic review is to assess the impact of computerized decision aids on patient-centered outcomes related to SDM for seriously ill patients.


PubMed and Scopus databases were searched to identify randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that assessed the impact of computerized decision aids on patient-centered outcomes and SDM in serious illness. Six RCTs were identified and data were extracted on study population, design, and results. Risk of bias was assessed by a modified Cochrane Risk of Bias Tool for Quality Assessment of Randomized Controlled Trials.


Six RCTs tested decision tools in varying serious illnesses. Three studies compared different computerized decision aids against each other and a control. All but one study demonstrated improvement in at least one patient-centered outcome. Computerized decision tools may reduce unnecessary treatment in patients with low disease severity in comparison with informational pamphlets. Additionally, electronic health record (EHR) portals may provide the opportunity to manage care from the home for individuals affected by illness. The quality of decision aids is of great importance. Furthermore, satisfaction with the use of tools is associated with increased patient satisfaction and reduced decisional conflict. Finally, patients may benefit from computerized decision tools without the need for increased physician involvement.


Most computerized decision aids improved at least one patient-centered outcome. All RCTs identified were at a High Risk of Bias or Unclear Risk of Bias. Effort should be made to improve the quality of RCTs testing SDM aids in serious illness.


chronic disease; decision aids; decision making; evidence-based medicine; user-computer interface

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