Purpose: Physicians are urged to practice shared treatment decision making (STDM), yet this concept is poorly understood. We developed a conceptual framework describing essential characteristics of a shared approach. This study assessed the degree of congruence in the meanings of STDM as described in the framework and as perceived by practicing physicians.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey questionnaire was mailed to eligible Ontario medical and radiation oncologists and surgeons treating women with early-stage breast cancer. Open-ended and structured questions elicited physicians’ perceptions of shared decision making.
Results: Most study physicians spontaneously described STDM using characteristics identified in the framework as essential to this concept. When presented with clinical examples in which the decision-making roles of physicians and patients were systematically varied, study physicians overwhelmingly identified example 4 as illustrating a shared approach. This example was deliberately constructed to depict STDM as defined in the framework. In addition, more than 85.0% of physicians identified as important to STDM specific patient and physician roles derived from the framework. These included the following: the physician gives information to the patient on treatment benefits and risks; the patient gives information to the physician about her values; the patient and physician discuss treatment options; both agree on the treatment to implement.
Conclusion: Substantial congruence was found between the meaning of STDM as described in the framework and as perceived by study physicians. This supports use of the framework as a conceptual tool to guide research, compare different treatment decision-making approaches, clarify the meaning of STDM, and enhance its translation into practice.