How Healthcare Providers can Engage Patients in Shared Decision Making

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23rd, 2010. The ACA, along with a few other healthcare reforms, has set into play a restoration of the nation’s healthcare system as a whole. Amongst the many positive changes the ACA brought to America’s healthcare system was section 3506— shared decision making.

Shared decision making is meant to bring together patient and healthcare provider in order to make healthcare decisions in which the patient’s values and preferences are taken into account. Using the healthcare provider’s expert knowledge and the patient’s right to be informed, together the healthcare provider and patient can ultimately come to a conclusion that satisfies both parties while optimizing for the best possible outcome. In recent years, studies have shown that a strategy of shared decision making can increase patient satisfaction, and when attempting to qualify for a medical practices’ Hospital Value-based Purchaing (HVBP) incentive payment program, patient satisfaction accounts for 30% of what qualifies a practice.

When you’re used to the way you do things around the office, adjusting to section 3506 of the ACA can become challenging. As previously mentioned, however, making the proper adjustments can make all the difference when qualifying for the HVBP incentive payments. Therefore, we’ve mapped out a few steps any healthcare provider can take in engaging patients in shared decision making.

1. Time. Allotting your patient’s appointment a sufficient amount of time to properly share, discuss, and explain information is essential when it comes to shared decision making. In fact, numerous studies have been made that suggest insufficient amounts of time as the number one barrier to implementing shared decision making.

2. Options. It’s important patients know every option. Provide detailed explanations of each option and justify how this option is most beneficial. Ask patients what they might already know about general choices or these options in particular. And while you should never be afraid to provide your view of the best option, it’s essential you first give a detailed explanation of the possibilities.

shared decision making polar green llc

“006” by Flickr user US Army Africa.

3. Details. Describing the different possible treatments, as well as their benefits and risks, in great detail is critical. Go the extra mile and use decision aids designed to help patients make decisions. Aids such as leaflets, booklets, websites, and the Informacio Workstation will help increase health literacy and improve shared decision making through patient engagement.

4. Support Them. A fundamental aspect of the ACA is to get patients interested and involved in their own health care. Once you’ve explained the different options, as well as their risks and benefits, ask your patient what matters most to them. Help narrow down the different options and then ask if they are ready to make a decision.

Implementing shared decision making is imperative to developing patient satisfaction. Through a strategy of patient engagement and shared expertise there is no doubt that your practice can reap the benefits of shared decision making as many other practices already have. At Polar Green, we’ve developed a prototype that encourages both patient engagement and shared decision making. The Informacio Workstation makes it easy for healthcare providers to relay and communicate crucial information to their patients in an easy-to-understand way. For more information on the Informacio Workstation, and to learn how you can help support a more health literate future, check out our Indiegogo campaign here: