Study: Shared decision-making boosts patient outcomes, leads to higher satisfaction rates

Doctor patient
A new study suggests orthopedic patients are more satisfied with their care when they participate in shared decision-making with physicians.

New research adds to the growing mound of evidence that shared decision-making can improve patient outcomes and leave them more satisfied with their care experience.

A study presented at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) this week surveyed more than 550 patients with orthopedic conditions that required pain management, like osteoarthritis or slipped discs. An initial survey measured patients' knowledge of their condition and their baseline quality of life, including freedom of movement and pain levels. A follow-up survey was conducted six months after that first visit, or six months after the patient’s surgical procedure, and examined quality of life and satisfaction with treatment.

Patients who were the most knowledgeable about their condition and who were given their preferred treatment were considered to have made informed, patient-centered decisions, and that group had higher scores for overall and disease-specific quality of life after six months, according to the study. These patients were also far more likely to be satisfied with their treatment, with about 71% satisfied compared to about 35% for the rest of the study group.

RELATED: Shared decision-making: Use questions to better inform surgical patients

The patients who made informed decisions were also more satisfied with their pain management programs (about 77% satisfied compared to about 42%) and were less likely to regret their treatment choices (about 5% regretted their decision compared with 15% of the rest of the study group).

"This study found that surgical patients, who are more informed and have a clear preference for surgery, have better outcomes,” study co-author Harry Rubash, M.D., emeritus chief of orthopedics at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School, said in a study announcement. “It highlights the need to focus further on decision-making prior to elective surgeries and other treatments."

The Affordable Care Act gives incentives to providers to embrace shared decision-making, and it’s proven to be a valuable tool for in the emergency department and the operating room. Hospitals like Mass General have used the practice to better engage with patients, but for shared decision-making to work effectively, physicians must welcome questions instead of deriding patients as being “difficult.”