A new study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine revealed that the level of shared decision making among adult patients who had discussed medical tests, medications and procedures with their doctors was not as high as expected.

A national survey was conducted in 2011 by Floyd J. Fowler, Jr., Ph.D., from the Informed Medical Decisions Foundation and the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A cross section of American adults above the age of 40 were asked whether they had made 1 of 10 medical decisions and to describe how they discussed the issues with their health care providers. The decisions included:

The survey also revealed whether the patients were told they had a choice and whether they were asked for any input by their doctor.

The authors said they saw a “great variation in the extent to which patients reported efforts to inform them about and involve them in 10 common decisions.”

Adding that “there was variation within decision types, decisions concerning four surgical procedures were much more shared than decisions about cancer screening and two very common long-term medications for cardiac risk reduction.”

The authors concluded:

“If share decision-making is to be one defining characteristic of primary care as delivered in medical homes, primary care physicians and other health care providers will need to balance their discussions of pros and cons to a greater degree and ask patients for their input more consistently.”

A team of experts from University College London, published a study in the British Journal of General Practice, that revealed before visiting your doctor, searching on the Internet to try and find out what is wrong can actually help patients benefit more from the consultation.

The finding is particularly interesting as most GPs in the past were not keen to see patients “googling” symptoms. However, now the majority are allowing it to further their discussions with the patients and involving them more, which can result in a more effective consultation.

In addition it demonstrates that patients’ views are taken seriously, while motivating doctors to listen to their concerns.

Written by Joseph Nordqvist