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Shared decision making

Shared decision making is when health care providers and patients work together to decide the best way to test for and treat health problems. There are more than one, and sometimes many, test and treatment options for most health conditions. So your condition may be managed in more than one way.

Your provider will go over all your options with you. The two of you will make a decision based on your provider's expertise and your values and goals.

Shared decision making helps you and your provider choose a treatment you both support.

When to use Shared Decision Making

Shared decision making is often used when you and your provider need to make big decisions such as:

Talking together about your options helps your provider know how you feel and what you value.

How Shared Decision Making Works

When facing a decision, your provider will fully explain your options. You can bring friends or family members to your visits to help in the shared decision making process.

You will learn about the risks and benefits of each option. These may include:

  • Medicines and possible side effects
  • Tests and any follow-up tests or procedures you may need
  • Treatments and possible results

Your provider also may explain why some tests or treatments are not recommended for you.

To help you decide, you may want to ask your provider about using decision aids. These are tools that have specific objective information and can help you understand your goals and how they relate to treatment. It can also help you know what questions to ask.

Once you know your options and the risks and benefits, you and your provider may decide to go ahead with a test or procedure, or wait. Together, you and your provider can make better health care decisions.

How to Find a Provider you can Talk With

When facing a big decision, you want to choose a provider who is good at communicating with patients. You should also learn what you can do to get the most out of talking with your provider. This will help you and your provider communicate openly and build a relationship of trust.

Alternative Names

Patient-centered care


Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality website. The SHARE approach. Updated October 2020. Accessed August 8, 2022.

Farroni JS, Winslade WJ. Ethics and professionalism in surgery. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 21st ed. Elsevier; 2022:chap 2.

Payne TH. Statistical interpretation of data and using data for clinical decisions. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 8.

Review Date 8/11/2022

Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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