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BMJ Open. 2019 Mar 20;9(3):e026342. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-026342.

Shared decision-making about cardiovascular disease medication in older people: a qualitative study of patient experiences in general practice.

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Faculty of Medicine and Health, School of Public Health, Sydney Health Literacy Lab, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
Faculty of Medicine and Health, School of Public Health, Wiser Healthcare, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine, Bond University, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.



To explore older people's perspectives and experiences with shared decision-making (SDM) about medication for cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevention.


Semi-structured interviews with 30 general practice patients aged 75 years and older in New South Wales, Australia, who had elevated CVD risk factors (blood pressure, cholesterol) or had received CVD-related lifestyle advice. Data were analysed by multiple researchers using Framework analysis.


Twenty eight participants out of 30 were on CVD prevention medication, half with established CVD. We outlined patient experiences using the four steps of the SDM process, identifying key barriers and challenges: Step 1. Choice awareness: taking medication for CVD prevention was generally not recognised as a decision requiring patient input; Step 2. Discuss benefits/harms options: CVD prevention poorly understood with emphasis on benefits; Step 3. Explore preferences: goals, values and preferences (eg, length of life vs quality of life, reducing disease burden vs risk reduction) varied widely but generally not discussed with the general practitioner; Step 4. Making the decision: overall preference for directive approach, but some patients wanted more active involvement. Themes were similar across primary and secondary CVD prevention, different levels of self-reported health and people on and off medication.


Results demonstrate how older participants vary widely in their health goals and preferences for treatment outcomes, suggesting that CVD prevention decisions are preference sensitive. Combined with the fact that the vast majority of participants were taking medications, and few understood the aims and potential benefits and harms of CVD prevention, it seems that older patients are not always making an informed decision. Our findings highlight potentially modifiable barriers to greater participation of older people in SDM about CVD prevention medication and prevention in general.


cardiology; preventive medicine; primary care; qualitative research

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Conflict of interest statement

Competing interests: None declared.

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