Shared decision-making and medicines: closing the gap between policy and practice

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Shared decision-making is all the rage right now, so it’s great to see this new report written by Professor Alan Cribb from the Centre for Public Policy Research at King’s College London.

There has been broad acceptance for many years that patient-centred care and shared decision-making between patients and healthcare professionals is a good idea, but how well are these policy directives actually working at the coalface?

This discussion paper explores the inherent complexities of increasing patient involvement in treatment decisions, looking through the lens of prescribed medicines and their use.

The analysis of the potential practical and ethical issues that need to be addressed to enable the successful implementation of shared decision-making will be of strong interest to medical professionals.

The report includes a mental health case study that is a structured approach to collaborative planning developed with adults who experience recurring psychotic episodes.

Key conclusions are:

Progress depends upon achieving greater clarity about the range of different purposes and agendas being pursued in the area of medicines and patient involvement. Fudging these different purposes and agendas together under single headings such as ‘shared decision-making’ (or ‘choice’) is often unhelpful and masks the diversity of approaches needed to tailor involvement to specific circumstances and cases and to address practice dilemmas.

The gap between policy ideals and routine practice can only be narrowed if both policy and practice are reformed.

Policy in this area must maintain the strongly reformist, even transformative, zeal of the advocates of patient involvement and shared decision-making. But this zeal needs to be combined with:

  1. a carefully differentiated account of the nature and values of involvement; and
  2. an approach to change that supports and protects these values.

Cribb, A. Involvement, shared decision-making and medicines (PDF). Royal Pharmaceutical Society, November 2011.

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Andre Tomlin

Andre Tomlin

André started the Mental Elf website in May 2011. He has worked as an Information Scientist in Mental Health since the late nineties; initially at Oxford University's Centre for Evidence-Based Mental Health and since 2002 as the Managing Director of Minervation Ltd. He loves blogging, social media and elves! He also has established interests in evidence-based healthcare, usability testing and web design.

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