Shared decision-making and the nuances of clinical work: Concepts, barriers and opportunities for a dynamic model

Marjolein Moleman*, Barbara J. Regeer, Tjerk Jan Schuitmaker-Warnaar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Shared decision-making (SDM) is considered the “final stage” that completes the implementation of evidence-based medicine. Yet, it is also considered the most neglected stage. SDM shifts the epistemological authority of medical knowledge to one that deliberately includes patients' values and preferences. Although this redefines the work of the clinical encounter, it remains unclear what a shared decision is and how it is practiced. Aim: The aim of this paper is to describe how healthcare professionals manoeuvre the nuances of decision-making that shape SDM. We identify barriers to SDM and collect strategies to help healthcare professionals think beyond existing solution pathways and overcome barriers to SDM. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 68 healthcare professionals from psychiatry, internal medicine, intensive care medicine, obstetrics and orthopaedics and 15 patients. Results: This study found that healthcare professionals conceptualize SDM in different ways, which indicates a lack of consensus about its meaning. We identified five barriers that limit manoeuvring space for SDM and contest the feasibility of a uniform, normative SDM model. Three identified barriers: (a) “not all patients want new role,” (b) “not all patients can adopt new role,” and (c) “attitude,” were linked to strategies focused on the knowledge, skills and attitudes of individual healthcare professionals. However, systemic barriers: (d) “prioritization of medical issues” and (e) “lack of time” render such individual-focused strategies insufficient. Conclusion: There is a need for a more nuanced understanding of SDM as a “graded” framework that allows for flexibility in decision-making styles to accommodate patient's unique preferences and needs and to expand the manoeuvring space for decision-making. The strategies in this study show how our understanding of SDM as a process of multi-dyadic interactions that spatially exceed the consulting room offers new avenues to make SDM workable in contemporary medicine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)926-934
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice
Issue number4
Early online date8 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • clinical guidelines
  • evidence-based medicine
  • healthcare
  • patient-centered care


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