The Unseen Importance of Shared Decision Making

Being a good teammate is a necessary skill to for every physician.  Not only is this critical in an interprofessional context, but perhaps most importantly, is a philosophy that should extend directly to patient care.  Indeed, a physician should participate in a partnership with the patient, as both parties aim to ultimately achieve the same goal: the best outcome for the patient’s health.  This is the fundamental basis of shared decision making, in which the physician actively seeks the patient’s involvement in deciding the course of action (or lack thereof).  While some physicians may rush through a seemingly meaningless consent process, the act of involving the patient in his/her own care is arguably the most important step of delivering care.  Nothing is more refreshing than a patient who takes an active role in maintaining his/her health.  By bringing the patient into the process, the doctor can inform the patient on both risks and benefits.  After all, the word doctor is derived from the Latin word “to teach”.  The shared decision making process is our opportunity, as healthcare providers, to educate our patients, imparting a gift just as valuable as any treatment or cure.