OBJECTIVE: To assess how patients prefer and perceive medical decision making, which factors are associated with their preferred and perceived decision-making roles, and whether observed involvement reflects patients' perceived role.
METHODS: We asked 781 patients visiting a medical specialist from 18 different disciplines to indicate their preferred and perceived decision-making roles. Patient involvement in videotaped consultations was assessed with the OPTION5 instrument.
RESULTS: Most patients preferred and perceived decision making as shared (SDM; 58% and 43%, respectively), followed by paternalistic (26% and 38%), and informative (16% and 15%). A large minority (n = 103, 21%) of patients preferring shared or informative decision making (n = 482) experienced paternalistic decision making. Mean (SD) OPTION5 scores were highest in consultations which patients perceived as informative (26.0 (19.7)), followed by shared (19.1 (17.2)) and lowest in paternalistic decision making (11.8 (13.4) p < 0.001).
CONCLUSIONS: Most patients want to be involved in decision making. Patients perceive that the physician makes the decision more often than they prefer, and perceive more involvement in the decision than objective assessment by an independent researcher shows.
PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: A clearer understanding of patients' medical decision-making experiences is needed to optimize physician SDM training programmes and patient awareness campaigns.